Iguodala saw his scoring totals plummet during his first year in Golden State, watching his points-per-game average drop all the way to 9.3, the lowest since his rookie year.
Save for a slight bump during the 2012-13 season, his scoring has fallen in each of the last six seasons. Team switches, role changes and general age regression have all contributed to this decline in output. Now, as he enters his 11th year in the league, it should be time to make some changes.
This isn't to say Iggy can't score or contribute offensively. He's still one of the best-passing small forwards in the league, and he's actually improved as a shooter and decision-maker in recent years, knocking down 35 percent of his long-range attempts over the past three seasons.
But stylistically, Iguodala is changing, as all players do, and it might be time for the Warriors to take him off pick-and-roll duty—or at least limit him in that role.
Iguodala can still be a secondary ball-handler, but he may not be a guy you want to turn the offense over to for long stretches anymore, considering how important the pick-and-roll has become in today's NBA.
It's not like Iguodala was ever a brilliant pick-and-roll guy to begin with, even though his reputation may say otherwise. His lack of production may be more of a scoring issue than a distributing one—he can still aptly create for others off the dribble—but he's not perfect.
Iguodala had a 14 percent turnover rate on pick-and-rolls he ran last year, according to Synergy Sports (subscription required), not exactly reliable for a guy who was running those plays relatively consistently for the Warriors.
He has a theme to his turnovers, as well. They tend to be one of three types:
- A failed pocket pass
- A botched, jumping, 180-spinning, cross-court pass
- A charge
The passes share a common denominator: They happen when he guesses where his teammates should be, instead of where they have actually headed.
Still though, Iguodala is actually a quality distributor out of the pick-and-roll. He has tremendous vision, and because he possesses a controlled handle paired with quick feet and a powerful frame, he finds ways to create for other guys, especially Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Those no-look pocket passes and cross-court heaves can pay dividends.
Iguodala does a nice job of finding shooters on the wings out of those sets, often flinging the rock across the paint to teammates on the opposite side of the floor. He'll hit his roll men, too, but often, Iguodala is looking either to distribute on the perimeter or score at the rim when he's dribbling around picks.
Those pick-and-rolls will look something like this (with a hat tip to Tim Hardaway Jr. and all the space he gives Thompson on this attempt):
Iggy pick-and-rolls made sense last year—in principle.
The Warriors offense can be dangerous with two of the league's best shooters on the outside as an athlete handles the rock in the middle of the floor. But, like on that Thompson three, Golden State developed a bad habit that entailed everyone standing around as Curry tried to get open. If that didn't work, it became Iguodala's duty to bail everyone out.
Now, Warriors assistant Alvin Gentry says he and new coach Steve Kerr could play Curry off the ball more than we've seen in the past, which naturally means someone else will have to handle the rock more. Gentry said as such to KNBR radio in San Francisco (h/t to the Bay Area News Group):
I think if you talk to Steph, I don’t know if he wants the ball in his hands that much at all like it’s been in the past. It’s one of the things we talked about with Steve Nash in Phoenix as he got a little bit older. It’s very tiresome when you come down and basically have the ball 80 percent of the time and you’re creating shots and everything for yourself as well as other players.
I think we’ll try to alleviate some of that with Steph as far as pitching ahead and getting the ball from one side of the floor to the other, running some pin-downs for him where he can come off and catch-and-shoot, and as I said, try to create easy baskets for him. By ball movement, I still don’t think it’s going to affect Steph one way as far as the shots that he gets, the assists that he has.
Curry scores in ways no one else can off the bounce, though letting him run off screens and spot up could give him open opportunities. However, that would likely place the ball in the hands of Iguodala, and there's one major flaw that makes the Warriors' small forward a struggling pick-and-roll player: He's not a threat to put the ball in the hoop out of those sets.
Iguodala averaged a troublesome 0.43 points per pick-and-roll play last season, per Synergy. And the problem wasn't necessarily the Warriors or the Mark Jackson system, because the once heavy-loaded offensive player scored just 0.61 points per play as a screen-and-roll ball-handler for the Denver Nuggets the previous season.
Though he's improved in recent years, Iguodala's never been a shooter. And because of that, he doesn't command much respect from defenders, who are happy to slide under screens against him, comfortably letting him fire away off the dribble.
This postseason play against the Los Angeles Clippers is no exception:
J.J. Redick is in Australia he's so far down under that screen. He couldn't be less threatened by Iggy's jumper.
Redick's goal is to take away dribble penetration and make sure Curry doesn't end up with the ball. He doesn't prioritize contesting the shot and winds up not even closing out on a wide-open attempt.
That's mainly because, though Iguodala has improved his jumper, he hasn't done so off the dribble.
Even in hitting a gaudy-for-him 35.4 percent of his shots from behind the arc last season, Iguodala did most of his damage as a catch-and-shoot threat, making just 35.1 percent of his pull-up jumpers and 20 percent of his pull-up threes. Considering the space he often got on those limited opportunities, it stands to reason that such a percentage should be higher.
We think of him as a struggling shooter, but that's really just when he's forced to create for himself. Case and point: he sunk 41.4 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes last year, in line with the percentages of known dead-on shooters like Kevin Martin and Wes Matthews. (His success as an off-ball contributor is just another reason the Warriors might be prudent to consider playing him in that role more often.)
Still, because Iggy isn't accurate off the dribble, his pick-and-roll style doesn't slide as well into the Warriors' gestalt as it may seem.
Late-career regression is only natural. Iguodala is 30 years old. No one should expect him to be the player he was back when he scored close to 20 points a night for the Sixers, putting up those numbers as a dribble-heavy expected star on disappointing teams. And the defensive stalwart, who remains one of the NBA's elite perimeter stoppers, merely needs to adjust his style, not change it completely.
That's what happens when careers progress.
Players change. Everyone does it, even the greats. Actually, especially the greats.
Tim Duncan has gone from a back-to-the-basket, volume scorer to a relentless screen-setter who moves the ball and scores the occasional inside or mid-range basket. Kobe Bryant became a little more post-up dominant with age. Iguodala, who cuts proficiently and benefited mightily from the space Curry and Thompson can provide, has the tools and mindset—seriously, how many players are smarter than he is?—to build that alteration into his game.
Just like a coach has to make half-time adjustments, players make mid-career modifications.
The Shaun Livingston acquisition will help remove some of the offensive burden from Iggy's shoulder's. And though Thompson is a work in progress as a dribbler on the perimeter and as a facilitator for his teammates, Team USA has actually let him run some pick-and-roll, and he's looked particularly comfortable in doing so.
You want a small sample size? You've got it right there.
Realistically, the Warriors probably won't rely on Thompson as any sort of distributor next season. That means Iguodala is going to get the rock often, even with the acquisition of Livingston, who can be one of the best off-the-bench guards in the NBA if he can stay healthy. And letting Iguodala command the attack on occasion is fine.
He still drives and dishes. He is particularly skilled in finding teammates as they run off screens. And he's a Ferrari in transition. But Kerr can put his team in a better position to succeed by limiting Iguodala's pick-and-roll attack.
If the Warriors take away some of those privileges to reform him within their offense, he could end up improving on his first season in gold.
Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade, but he maintains that his per-36-minute numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at RotoWire.com, WashingtonPost.com or on ESPN's TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.
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