The Golden State Warriors didn't make any moves at the NBA trade deadline, and rightfully so. But little did they know, the emergence of one of their own would represent the team's most significant midseason acquisition.
As if his stifling on-ball defense wasn't enough, Andre Iguodala has provided the Warriors' prolific bench with an extra jolt of scoring punch over the past four weeks. A surprising source of reliable supplementary buckets, Iguodala has been honing his spot-up shooting skills while helping initiate sets for Steve Kerr's dynamite second unit.
Since the All-Star break, Iguodala's basic box score averages and conversion rates are up across the board.
Those numbers are encouraging in a vacuum, but they're hardly other-worldly compared to more voluminous bench scorers. They may even seem underwhelming for a player making $12.3 million this season.
But context is crucial.
"Andre's had a fantastic year," Kerr told reporters following Golden State's 106-101 win over the Boston Celtics on March 1, according to NBC Bay Area. "If you don't watch all the time you'd look at the numbers and say, 'He's having his worst year.' He's having a great year."
For the first time in his career, Iguodala has been asked to come off the bench and accept a diminished role in the name of providing balance.
Iguodala spoke to USA Today's Sam Amick about that transition back in November:
I think the best way to (convince players to play the sixth man role) is to just be honest about it. What are you trying to do? What's your goal? Why do you think it works? And that's what Coach Kerr did. He was like, "All right, I think you're better playing with the second unit because the second unit (will be) better—you make them go." I was like, "All right, cool."..I mean I can argue, and say, "(Expletive), I make the first team better too. I don't care who I'm playing with, I'm making everybody better."
Of course, Iguodala could start on just about every other NBA team. He's an all-world defender blessed with length, speed and a brilliant basketball mind. There's a reason he started all 758 games he appeared in prior to this season.
"Dre is the kind of guy who can dominate a game without scoring double figures," former Sixers head coach Doug Collins told Sporting News' Sean Deveney last January. "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.”
When Iguodala can splice in some spot-up threes, push the ball in transition and distribute the rock while locking up the opponents' biggest perimeter threat, he gives Golden State another luxurious complementary piece capable of taking pressure off Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
"Curry can play off the ball more often when Iguodala is in the game," Warriors World's Alex Torres wrote. "He can take care of the facilitator duties while Curry comes off screens and goes into scoring mode. There’s little Iguodala can’t do on a basketball court."
And lately, Iguodala's been doing a little of everything.
Over the last week, Iguodala has broken down the 20-point barrier twice—a feat he accomplished once prior to the All-Star break. He's also tallied 21 assists over his last six games, including a 21-point, six-assist performance in a 114-95 thrashing of the Atlanta Hawks on March 18.
For a guy who's seldom viewed as a primary, secondary or even tertiary scorer, that's pretty remarkable. In fact, Iguodala's usage rate of 13.2 is tied with Andrew Bogut for the lowest among regular Golden State contributors. Only Brandon Rush and Ognjen Kuzmic have posted lower ratings this season.
Although those recent bumps in the box score have been a pleasant surprise, Iguodala's true value has never been quantified by basic counting stats.
Take his defensive impact, for example.
Iguodala's disruptive style somehow makes Golden State's league-best defense even better, which supersedes any perceived stinginess relayed via steal and block totals. According to NBA.com, the Warriors post a defensive rating of 96 with Iguodala on the floor—a 3.3-point improvement from his time on the bench. It's also a 1.5-point improvement from the Warriors' top-rated total.
With All-NBA players and prospective postseason award winners littering the Warriors' roster, it's easy for a former All-Star on the wrong side of 30 to get lost in the shuffle. And therein lies the beauty of his presence.
Iguodala may be consistently overlooked as a key cog in the Warriors' loaded rotation, but his under-the-radar contributions have bolstered Golden State's title chances in a big way.
Even if no one's ready to acknowledge it.