Iguodala was brought in to stabilize an already-impressive rotation. Upon arrival, he did so much more. His presence transformed the Warriors from darlings of the NBA into a feared contender, capable of unleashing hell within an all-too-powerful conference.
But a strained left hamstring sidelined Iguodala indefinitely, bringing a premature end to Golden State's reign of majesty.
The Warriors are still the Warriors, of course. They can still run and score. They can still shoot three-pointers like the floor within the arc is made of lava.
They're not the same, though. They're losing in excess and playing defense no more. Something is missing. Someone is missing.
Iguodala, the second-most important Warrior, is missing.
Golden State's overall numbers suggest this is no time panic, and it's not.
The Warriors rank 11th and seventh in offensive and defensive efficiency, respectively. Four other teams can match or exceed those ranks—Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder, all of whom are among the top four teams in their conference.
Putting themselves in good company has done little for the Warriors, who are presently on the outside of the West's playoff bubble. Bolstered by a fantastic start—one we thought was a message—their overall numbers don't reflect those of a non-playoff team. It's just the opposite.
They've placed themselves next to the Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and reigning champion Heat. How could they have a worse record than the supposedly tanking Phoenix Suns?
Including the game in which Iggy went down, the Warriors are 4-6 "without" him, after they began the season a very convincing 8-4.
They now sit at 12-10, ninth place in the Western Conference, hovering close to .500. Those days were supposed to be over. This team wouldn't fight for a playoff spot; it would fight for a title.
For a while, Golden State did. That's how it seemed. Through the first 12 games of the season, the Warriors were slicing through opponents. Losses occurred, but cogent victories over the Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves gave them credibility.
Then Iguodala went down, and everything changed.
Barnes is a more-than-servicable starter, but his removal from the bench further depletes an already-thin second unit. Golden State's bench has since fallen to 28th in points scored per game.
Had Iggy never been injured, the Warriors wouldn't be where they are, looking up at the Suns. Their defense wouldn't be a mess, and the ball would be moving on offense.
When they lost Iguodala, the Warriors lost so much more than his 12.9 points, 6.3 assists and 1.9 steals per game. His individual numbers mattered, but the profound impact he had on the entire team mattered more.
Said head coach Mark Jackson of Iggy's absence, per the Bay Area News Group's Matt Schwab:
I think it's pretty obvious. He's a bigtime playmaker on the offensive end. He's another ball-handler for us. He's a guy that has an extremely high IQ, understanding the offensive end and the defensive end. He helps out depth also, because now you bring Harrison off the bench. Now you have, I don't want to say no nowhere to go with Harrison not on the bench, but that hurts us.
Jackson was neither kidding nor speaking in hyperbole. Iggy is "bigtime."
Look at the Warriors' offensive and defensive ratings with and without Iggy this season:
Both Golden State's offense and defense have been far better with Iguodala on the floor. His perimeter presence deters penetration, and he gives the Warriors someone with quick hands who can also contest shots.
Not surprisingly, they've struggled without him. Really struggled.
|When?||PPG||FG%||3P%||APG||Opp. PPG||Opp. FG%||Opp. 3P%|
|Since Iggy's Injury||103.8||45.4||37.9||20.9||105||45.1||39.2|
One word: wow. Another two: uh-oh.
Including that loss to the Lakers, when Iggy first went down, the Warriors are allowing 7.8 points more per game. Their opponents' field-goal percentages are up while theirs are down. Their scoring is up, but not enough.
More points may be scored with him on the pine, but the trade-off is much too high. Everything else has plummeted. Opposing three-point conversion rates are especially telling.
Outside of Iguodala, there is no elite perimeter defender on the Warriors. Strong cases can be made for Thompson and Barnes as good, and Mark Jackson would likely call Curry an elite defender (or something), but they're not Iguodala. And what the Warriors need is Iguodala.
They need that underrated, yet effective, two-way talent. They need the athletic forward who doubles as a floor general.
They need Iggy back in every way, in the worst way, imaginable.
Out east, Iguodala's absence wouldn't be as debilitating. The Eastern Conference is a joke, rife with incompetent teams and expensive underachievers.
But the Warriors play in a brutal Western Conference, where nine teams have winning records and 11 are .500 or better. Counting the New Orleans Pelicans and Minnesota Timberwolves, there are 13 squads within two victories of .500 or better.
Translation: There's no such thing as an easy win for the Warriors. Not now.
They're already 0-4 against teams above .500 sans Iggy, left to feast on outfits less fortunate than they are. As we saw against the Charlotte Bobcats, not even those types of contests are sure things.
The Warriors relinquished 115 points in regulation to the Bobcats. Ahem: the Bobcats. The same Bobcats who rank 28th in offensive efficiency and now have a losing record, despite playing in the super-terrible Eastern Conference.
Where did all the defense go? Where did all the winning go?
Playing like they are now, without Iggy, will put the Warriors in a hole—worse than the 12-point hole they dug themselves by halftime against Charlotte.
Catch-up is a dangerous game. In the Western Conference, it borders on an impossible game. Though their heads are still above .500, the Warriors are already outside the playoff picture, sinking deeper and deeper into the quicksand Iggy's injury has left them in.
Chances are the Warriors will make the playoffs. Iggy is getting closer to a return, and once he's back, order on both ends will be restored.
But that guarantees the Warriors nothing. They'll still be in a hole, still have plenty of ground to make up. His absence won't cost them a playoff spot, but what if it costs them their postseason rank? What if the Pacific Division suddenly falls out of reach?
Iggy may be working his way back, but he's not back yet. Until he is, the Warriors must find ways to win without him. They must find ways to preserve that contender status deservedly bestowed upon them just 10 games ago.
What would the Warriors' ceiling be in the Western Conference without Iguodala?
They must cover up the glaring deficiencies his injury has left them with.
"We went and got him for a reason, and when we don't have him we're still a good basketball team, but we're not the same team," Jackson admitted, via Schwab.
The Warriors are indeed a good team without Iggy—they're just not the same.
Without him, they're just not great.