Golden State Warriors a Completely Different Team with Andre Iguodala in Lineup

Ben LeibowitzCorrespondent IIIDecember 18, 2013

Nov 18, 2013; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Golden State Warriors small forward Andre Iguodala (9) practices free-throws before the game against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Andre Iguodala didn’t play many minutes or fill the stat sheet in his return from a hamstring strain that kept him sidelined for 12 games, but the impact he makes for the Golden State Warriors’ morale goes beyond the box score.

The Warriors jumped on the short-handed New Orleans Pelicans Tuesday, leading 26-19 after the first quarter and 57-39 at halftime. And while Iguodala wasn’t scoring or rebounding like usual, his influence from a defensive standpoint speaks volumes about the game-changing talent he is.

Iguodala's significance, however, goes so much further beyond stats like steals and opponent turnovers per game. Here are the Warriors' numbers through the first 13 games with Iggy:

Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/18/2013.

And here are the team's stats during the 12 games he was sidelined:

Provided by View Original Table
Generated 12/18/2013.

As you can see, the Warriors' production on defense and offense was down across the board when Iguodala wasn't suiting up.

Opponents shot 39.3 percent from three-point range when they didn't have to face him and 32.8 percent when he was playing his usual lockdown defense. Also, Golden State shot 47.6 percent overall with him and 45.5 percent from the field without him.

They were reeling with Iggy unable to play. The Dubs had lost four of six contests prior to the 104-93 win in Iguodala’s return, falling out of the playoff picture in the process.

Were it not for the heroics of point guard Stephen Curry, who converted a four-point play and a game-winning dagger against the Dallas Mavericks, Golden State’s problems sans Iguodala would be that much more pronounced.

Iggy finished with just two points on 1-of-4 shooting to accompany two assists in his return, and while those stats hint that he struggled, Iguodala still displayed the same flashy athleticism that has defined his career (although the highlight was spoiled by Jason Smith’s block):

The Warriors were 5-7 without Iggy. With him they’ve improved to 9-5 overall. Needless to say, he’s a huge key to their success on both ends of the court.

Warriors head coach Mark Jackson explained Iguodala's importance, via Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle:

When you realize that the Warriors lost Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry to free agency last summer—two guys who received votes for Sixth Man of the Year last season—it’s that much more imperative for Iggy to stay healthy.

Harrison Barnes has been given the added responsibility of leading a second unit that lost two veteran leaders. After he was forced into the starting lineup to replace the injured Iguodala, the Warriors’ bench produced a negligible amount of production.

Over the past 10 games, Golden State’s bench finished last in the NBA in points (17.4) and minutes (11.6) per game, according to Hoops Stats. Because the second unit wasn’t producing to the same level as with Barnes, more pressure was heaved onto the shoulders of the starting five.

In this regard, Iguodala’s absence rippled across the entire roster by creating a domino effect.

Marreese Speights and Toney Douglas—the two major additions to the bench in place of Jack and Landry—have struggled. Jermaine O’Neal, meanwhile, recently underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right wrist and will be out indefinitely.

The Warriors have faced a lot of adversity this season, and they still have plenty of work to do to get back into the playoff picture.

Getting Iguodala back, rusty or not, means everything to this team’s confidence and swagger.

As long as the Warriors stay healthy throughout the remainder of the 2013-14 season, they’ll have a great shot at a postseason berth by season’s end.