Steven Kerr is the new head coach of the Golden State Warriors, fringe title contenders that are capable of going all the way at some point in the next few years if a few variables break in their favor.
Andre Iguodala—one of the most complete and versatile wings in the entire league—is one such variable. If Kerr is to squeeze every drop of talent out of the roster he's inherited, Iguodala is a player he absolutely needs to put in position for a bounce-back campaign.
Iguodala’s first season with the Golden State Warriors was a relative success. The splashy free-agent signing didn’t play the greatest basketball of his career, but he also didn’t stuff Golden State’s good vibes in a trash can then set them on fire.
In 63 regular-season games, the team was lights-out with him on the court. Their offense scored 110.5 points per 100 possessions, while their defense surrendered a measly 96.8.
These numbers would make Golden State the very best offense in the league, a hair behind the Indiana Pacers for second-best on the other end. Iguodala’s grandiose net rating obviously led the team.
Just from looking at these on/off statistics (a dangerous thing to do without context), he was fantastic, and the Warriors responded to his arrival with a nightly swarm of hugs and handshakes.
But the evaluation process is never that easy, and the further we dig into Iguodala’s statistical footprint the more it looks like his impact could've been better.
Iguodala ended the year with Golden State’s ninth-highest PER (13.7). He averaged fewer points than Harrison Barnes (in four more minutes per game), and posted his lowest assist rate in eight years. Iguodala’s usage percentage was a pitiful 13.3 percent, lower than Sixers rookie Brandon Davies.
Not one of these numbers are especially uplifting, and that’s before factoring in his age (30) and contract (a four-year, $48 million deal that started this year, but subsides each season), but a better individual effort from Iguodala would make the Warriors that much better.
Is this the best Golden State will see from its investment, or will complete health and a new coach push Iguodala to the edge of his former All-Star caliber self?
After correctly realizing he wasn’t the traditional heir apparent that a post-Allen Iverson Philadelphia 76ers needed, Iguodala committed himself to becoming a do-everything handyman. He excelled on defense, made life easier for teammates on both ends and only hunted his own shots when it made absolute sense to do so.
He was a talking band-aid and an extremely pricey complementary player.
Former Warriors coach Mark Jackson’s system wasn’t Iguodala’s worst enemy, but the methodical half-court nature of that offense didn’t exactly take advantage of all Iguodala has to give, either. Kerr now has an opportunity to shift the tone and alter their identity. That starts with how he uses his starting small forward.
The most glaring and necessary change is also the team’s most undeniable: Golden State needs to play with pace.
The Warriors need to push the ball off misses, run a secondary fast break off opponent makes and generally go out of their way to push the action in the open floor.
Pushing the pace happens to be Iguodala’s bread and butter. He can finish and create—free-styling offensive opportunity off the dribble. Here’s what Kerr had to say after his introductory press conference to Tim Kawakami of MercuryNews.com:
I don't like to see [Iguodala] standing in the corner. That's where he gets lost a little bit…I think you’ll see a lot of ball movement; I think you’ll see the bigs utilized as passers on the elbows and on the block. I think you’ll see some Triangle concepts. We’re not going to look like the Chicago Bulls in the ’90s…I think in today’s NBA you have to run; you have to play fast and score early…I like to see flow and ball movement and spacing. And this team has a lot of skill players who should be able to work together and create easier shots for one another.
But transition can only get you so far, and Kerr’s half-court offense should make more use of Iguodala’s passing ability as opposed to his "threat" as a spot-up shooter (Iguodala is a career 33.1 percent three-point shooter, and last year nearly four out of every 10 of his attempts came beyond the arc).
The one-time All-Star's 18.2 percent assist rate only trailed Stephen Curry and Steve Blake last year, but it could stand to go higher.
Iguodala’s ability to break defenses down off the dribble is well-documented, and he should be called upon to do even more than direct traffic while the likes of Curry and Klay Thompson are racing around off-ball screens trying to get open.
Here, the play is to quickly run Curry off a screen, but the Clippers blow it up by switching Darren Collison and Blake Griffin. Instead, Iguodala drives the ball himself, draws DeAndre Jordan over to help and hits David Lee for the easy dunk:
On the complete other end of the spectrum, it’d be nice to see Kerr get Iguodala the ball with his back to the basket more often. He shot 60.5 percent on post-ups last season, averaging 1.02 points per possession—the 18th most efficient post-up player in the NBA, per Synergy Sports.
Here he is taking advantage of a mismatch over the much smaller Jamal Crawford. It’s a designed play, and Iguodala’s awkward-looking hook shot drops in:
The following clip is a bit more meaningful. Here he is backing J.J. Redick down deep into the paint and forcing Jordan to help. Iguodala ultimately makes a poor decision and misses his tough fadeaway jumper, but Klay Thompson was wide open for three in the weak-side corner.
Iguodala’s efficiency from the post is fantastic, but the kick out to Thompson should be what Golden State looks for every time. Working from the post has the potential to create openings elsewhere; forcing double-teams with it next year would be a smart decision, maybe even as a go-to option on bench-heavy units.
The Warriors are already a very good basketball team, but the pieces in place are capable of even better production in 2014-15. Iguodala is first in line. He did a fine job fitting in last year, but his individual numbers were suboptimal.
Defensively, Iguodala will continue on as the fantastic perimeter safety net he’s always been, but Kerr needs to give him the ball in even more advantageous areas if Golden State’s offense is to reach loftier heights.
It is more than capable.