Warriors' Andre Iguodala Validating Status as Best NBA Offseason Pickup

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistNovember 15, 2013

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 14:  Andre Iguodala #9 of the Golden State Warriors reacts after he made a three-point basket against the Oklahoma City Thunder at ORACLE Arena on November 14, 2013 in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Andre Iguodala wasn't the biggest fish swimming in the 2013 NBA free-agent waters. But that worked just as well as the Golden State Warriors didn't have the biggest net to cast.

Yet, thanks to the generosity of the basketball gods—and perhaps a slight assist from the impatient Sacramento Kings—this relationship was forged this summer. Just two weeks into the season, it already stands tall as the NBA offseason's best pickup.

Following Golden State's first signature win of the 2013-14 campaign, which naturally featured an emphatic stamp from Iguodala, this has the chance to be something far sweeter than a savvy summer signing. It could be the Warriors', and Iguodala's, ticket to the championship stage.

Statistical Recognition

The ink was still wet on Iguodala's four-year, $48 million deal when the former All-Star threw out the first lines of the Bay Area's new favorite song:

At first, it almost felt like a warning shot. Like Iguodala was trying to tell his new fanbase not to expect to see $48 million worth of points in the box scores.

But with seemingly daily reminders from coach Mark Jackson, the fact that the stat sheet might not always do Iguodala justice was forcibly ingrained inside the heads of Warriors fans.

Never mind the fact that his resume had been singing that tune for years. He's averaged 15.0 points per game over the course of his career; he wasn't brought on board for his offense.

Yet, despite the disclaimer, it's been impossible to ignore the 29-year-old's notable numbers. He may have brought a glue-guy reputation to Oakland, but his basketball story is still being written.

The scoring really hasn't changed (14.2 points a night), but the way he's filling that column certainly has.

Never known as a shooter (career 33.2 percent from beyond the arc), he's come out with guns blazing. Must be something floating through the Bay, the leftovers from the Splash Brothers' last dip perhaps.

Nov 4, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Andre Iguodala (9) celebrates hitting a three point shot during the second quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center. The Warriors defeated the Sixers 110-90. Mandatory Cre
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Short of a mystifying struggle at the free-throw line (55.6 percent, 72.2 percent for his career), he's been hitting everything in sight. He leads one of the league's top shooting teams—only the Miami Heat (61.8) have a higher true shooting percentage than the Dubs (58.6)—in field-goal shooting (60.0) and is tied for second among Golden State's long-range snipers (50.0).

He's produced a ridiculous 1.95 points per possession on 21 spot-up chances (via MySynergySports.com, subscription required). For a frame of reference, spot-up opportunities have yielded 1.43 points per possession for Golden State's resident sniper Stephen Curry.

Only Indiana Pacers forward David West (72.7) has converted a higher percentage of catch-and-shoot field goals than Iguodala (69.2) among all shooters with at least two such attempts per game.

The alpha role that scouts wondered if he could fill during his days with the Philadelphia 76ers, the coffin-closers that some thought he couldn't hit? Iguodala's already provided the biggest one of Golden State's season.

Maybe it's just a hot start. But it's getting harder to dismiss the digits as the sample size increases by the day.

As for Iguodala's traditional strengths—offensive creativity and suffocating defense—those have been every bit as good as advertised.

His distributing chances have been diminished somewhat by the presence of Curry.

A three-point god in the eyes of many, Curry's a point guard first in the minds of management. With the ball in his hands now more than ever (career-high 27.5 percent usage rate), he's put his passing skills to the test with promising (career-best 8.5 assists per game) but slightly inconclusive (career-worst 3.6 turnovers) results.

Iguodala has had to maximize his offensive chances. His 14.9 percent usage rate is as low as its been since his sophomore season of 2005-06. Consider this test aced, though, as he's produced the 13th most points per game off assists (14.7) with only the league's 30th most assist opportunities (9.9).

At the other end of the floor, he's been the missing piece to Jackson's defensive puzzle.

He can match the athleticism of Golden State's young perimeter defenders Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, but pair that physical gift with the mental polish that comes from spending nine seasons in this league.

He has the strength to guard bigger forwards (see: Kevin Durant's 5-of-13 performance against him Thursday) and the quickness to stay with point guards. Opposing shooting guards have posted a paltry 9.8 player efficiency rating against him—league average is 15.0—and small forwards have managed just a 13.9 mark, via 82games.com.

Jackson and Iguodala aren't wrong. View him only through the lens of the stat sheet, and you'll miss so much of his game. His rotations are crisp, his closeouts both disruptive and controlled. He understands when to slash toward the basket and when to stay glued behind the arc to leave the interior exposed.

But ignoring the box score glosses over some of his magic, too. His numbers might fluctuate, but the advanced statistics now at our disposal help magnify his meaning to the roster.

It's crazy to think how long it took to get him in the blue and gold. The delay definitely didn't happen for a lack of trying; the Warriors have wanted him for years.

Now that he's arrived, it feels like he was here all along. Perfect fits don't always happen in free agency, but this pairing made too much sense not to work.

Championship Picture Forming?

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 14: Andre Iguodala #9 of the Golden State Warriors celebrates after making the game winner against the Oklahoma City Thunder on November 14, 2013 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

That's the real reason all blockbuster moves are made, isn't it?

Would Dwight Howard be missing free throws in H-Town if the Houston Rockets didn't think he could help them clear that championship hurdle? Are the Detroit Pistons not living with long twos from Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings with the hope that talent one day overtakes logic?

The Warriors have quietly built something special these last few seasons.

They've drafted a strong core (Curry, Thompson, Barnes, Green) to build around. They've rolled a few dice in the trade market (David Lee, Andrew Bogut) and another on the sideline (Jackson).

After an exhaustive, at times uncomfortable struggle, winning has not only become important, it's been made possible.

Iguodala wasn't the main piece in that equation. But he might be that last one needed to give this incredibly patient fanbase the ending it deserves.

A championship still seems far off in the distance. Besides the seven-plus month grind to get to that stage, there are turnover issues that need to be corrected, rebounding woes that need fixing.

Iguodala can't solves those problems by himself, but he brings this franchise a step closer to the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

It's hard to say that same thing about his fellow offseason movers, Superman himself included. Howard might post bigger numbers, sell more jerseys and capture more regular-season honors.

But if you think that makes him a better pickup than Iguodala, then you're missing the point.

Remember, there's a lot more than statistics to Iguodala's game. No matter how impressive those figures might actually be.

*Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basktball-Reference.com and NBA.com.


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