Andre Iguodala has become the first 76er since Allen Iverson to represent the USA in international competition and he appears to be growing as a player because of it.
So far his scoring numbers have been somewhat meager, but he is contributing in a number of different ways. USA coach Mike Krzyzewski has made it a priority to start Iguodala in each of team USA's first four games in the World Championships as well as all of their exhibitions. This vote of confidence from a coach like Krzyzewski will only benefit Iguodala in the long run and will turn him into the leader that the Philadelphia 76ers so desperately need.
The first benefit will be confidence. The simple fact that Andre Iguodala is not only playing for team USA, but starting on it, should prove to him that he is an elite player in this league. He has a lot of the intangibles that other elite players have offensively and he is better than the majority of them on the defensive end.
This boost in confidence should lead to a much more mature and aggressive style of play this upcoming season, which should lead to Iguodala's first appearance in an All-Star game. Although Iguodala may not be putting up gaudy numbers for Team USA on the offensive end, he is making up for it defensively.
He is tied for the team lead in steals averaging a little more than two per game not to mention a number of timely pass deflections. New 76ers' coach Doug Collins expressed that he wants to see Iguodala develop into an All NBA first team defender and his play so far for team USA shows that he is not taking his new coach's wishes lightly.
Will Team USA experience make Iguodala a better player?
Iguodala has made an impact in a multitude of ways for Team USA, obviously defensively, but also adding 5.5 points per game and scoring with an impressive .615 shooting percentage and a .500 percentage from beyond the arc. He is also accomplishing this with very few touches. He is not taking a lot of shots, but he is taking good shots when he can.
Obviously during the season, 5.5 points will not cut it, but Iguodala will understand that he does not have to be Allen Iverson and shoot the ball 30 times a night. With a pure point guard like Jrue Holiday and a good ball handler and decision maker in Evan Turner, all Iguodala has to focus on is playing staunch defense and taking smart, opportunistic shots because those two will be sure to provide him with plenty of smart and easy scoring opportunities.
Finally, Iguodala will benefit by learning how to be a leader. It will be clear that he is the leader of the Sixers, simply because of his international experience. This new sense of leadership will be good for Iguodala because it will allow him to set the tone for the rest of the team. It will give him an undeniable voice and influence in the locker room and it will hopefully cause the rest of the franchise to seek the same level of greatness for themselves.
This offseason for the Sixers has been a good one. They solidified their backcourt for several years to come with the addition of Evan Turner. They found a coach with a track record of success when it comes to turning around wayward franchises. They brought in Rod Thorn, a good basketball mind who will take some of the load away from Ed Stefanski to allow him to just focus on personnel, and they began the process of unloading bloated contracts (Samuel Dalembert).
And although this may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the offseason, Iguodala playing for team USA might be the most important and beneficial aspect of the Sixers' offseason simply because this could be the boost that turns the Sixers' best player into a legitimate franchise player.