Andre Iguodala has elevated the Warriors' defense.
Make no mistake, Curry has been transcendent this year based off of any metric you want to throw out. His 23.0 points per game, 9.6 assists and 4.7 rebounds are evidence of this. He’s been absolutely sensational this season.
It’s no coincidence, however, that the nine-game win streak the Warriors are currently on coincides with Iguodala’s return to the lineup. Or that the Warriors are 18-6 with Iguodala on the court and 5-7 with him in street clothes.
Iguodala just finds ways to win, and that is the only statistic he cares about.
In the Warriors’ 123-114 drubbing of the defending NBA champion Miami Heat Thursday, Jan. 2, Iguodala took upon himself the greatest assignment the NBA has to offer: guarding LeBron James.
He rose to the occasion.
Obviously completely stopping James is fool’s gold, and James went out and got his to the tune of 26 points, five rebounds and five assists. The number that mattered most, however, was the eight turnovers that Iguodala forced him to commit.
The stifling defense that Iguodala has become so famous for pestered James into his worst game of the season, dooming the Heat from the start.
Iguodala’s former head coach Doug Collins praised what makes him so special, courtesy of Sean Deveney of Sporting News:
I had Dre for two years, and when you’re in a place making the kind of money he was making and was the signature player, what goes with that, people feel like, well he should score X number of points, you should be the guy with the ball in your hands at the end of the game, to do those different kinds of things. But Dre is the kind of guy who can dominate a game without scoring double figures. The guy is able to lock down on the perimeter with whoever you want to put him on, with his size and his speed, and he is very, very smart.
That is precisely what made Iguodala such a perfect fit on the Warriors and why it’s becoming more and more clear that he, and not Dwight Howard, was the free agent the Warriors needed to sign this offseason.
The Warriors had holes at the end of last season, but they proved that they had the stars in place necessary to compete in the loaded Western Conference. What they needed was that piece to put them over the top.
That is what they found in Iguodala, a defensive menace who isn’t afraid of the moment when the time comes. His buzzer-beater to knock off the Atlanta Hawks Friday, Jan. 3 is proof of that. With Curry bottled up, he made himself available and pulled the trigger on a shot so many others would be mortified to shoot.
He might not be first, second or even third in the pecking order on offense in the first 47 minutes of games, but in that final minute, when all the pressure is raining down harder than ever, he’s at the front of the line. He’s an unselfish star that does only what is asked of him.
Another former coach, George Karl, perfectly stated this, again courtesy of Sean Deveney of Sporting News:
When that deal went down, I said to myself, there’s probably not a better team for Andre than Golden State as far as his personality. Andre loves the team to play as a team, he is a team guy, he is unselfish. The only thing he has had problems with in his career has been when teams want him to score 20 points a game. Golden State doesn’t need him to score 20 points. They need him to do what he does at a high level.
After masquerading for years in Philadelphia and Denver as a top star, Iguodala has finally found his role. And that role is being the Robin to Curry’s Batman. Curry will get the Warriors the huge numbers and carry the team on his back when necessary.
Iguodala is right there next to him, the perfect complement, doing the dirty work, playing hard-nosed defense and coming through in the biggest of moments. He has elevated the Warriors from a young, scrappy playoff team, to a legitimate contender.
They’ve overcome the Heat, taken down the Oklahoma City Thunder and stood toe-to-toe with the Los Angeles Clippers. With Iguodala, they’re good enough to beat anyone. As the season progresses and Iguodala becomes more of a focal point on offense, the sky is the limit to what the Warriors can achieve.
Just remember, while it might all begin and end with Curry, Iguodala had his fingerprints on everything in between.