I've written a few posts on Curry, recently, so I thought I'd switch it up a little.
However, after shedding the horrifying contracts of Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson - in a deal that almost certainly required Warriors GM, Bob Myers, to sell his soul to the devil - the Warriors were able to make an unanticipated run at Dwight Howard. Although they did not land Howard, Golden State ended up with another highly sought after free agent: Andre Iguodala.
Iguodala was the anchor of a well-balanced Nuggets team that finished with the 3rd best record in the Western Conference, only to be bounced in the first round of the playoffs by... oh yeah, the Warriors.
Signing Iguodala was a huge move for the Warriors (and at the very least, they got rid of Biedrins' and Jefferson's terrible contracts), but what, specifically, does Iggy bring to Golden State?
To understand his impact, let's assess the Warriors needs and then how Iguodala might address them.
Golden State's Needs
Although Golden State was able to add Iguodala, in the process, they lost a key contributor from last season in Jarrett Jack.
According to Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland, out of the players that attempted over 400 midrange shots last season, Jack had the highest field goal percentage amongst guards at 47%, a percentage that was also higher than the likes of Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant.
During the regular season, playing an average of 30 minutes a game, Jack claimed 12.9 points, 5.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds. When the playoffs came around, Jack's production increased to 17.2 points per game (shooting 50.6% from the field), 4.7 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game.
With Jack moving on to Cleveland, the Warriors must find another way to supplement their offense when Curry and/or Thompson are not on the floor.
Another area Golden State will need to improve upon if they're going to make a deeper playoff run is on the defensive end of the ball.
When the Warriors' defensive woes are discussed, it's often in conjunction with David Lee's incompetency as a defender. Although Lee may be a weak defender, a deeper look at the numbers will show that the Warriors defensive struggles lie in their perimeter defense, and in how frequently they put their opponents on the free throw line.
Given the areas in need of addressing, can Iguodala make up for what the Warriors lost in Landry and Jack, while also helping them improve defensively?
Can Iggy Fill The Void?
If you were forced to define Iguodala by his position, the best answer you could give is that he is a wing. Beyond that, Iguodala is one of the few players in the league that defies conventional positional archetypes due to his wide array of skills.
One thing that's been well established with Iggy is that he's a great defender, but unlike other well-known defenders, ( like Tony Allen, for example) Iguodala is a capable scorer, and a solid playmaker for a wing.
Given his flexibility, it's likely that Iguodala will be called upon to help make up for the loss of Jarrett Jack, at least in some capacity.
Iguodala isn't the kind of player that you want handling the ball at a high volume because he's prone to committing turnovers (2.6 per game, last season), but allowing Iguodala to fill the role of point forward for limited minutes is well within the realm of possibilities.
In 2012-13, Iguodala averaged 5.4 assists and his passing abilities are nothing to scoff at.
It's okay, David, now that he's on your team, it's safe to turn your back.
In terms of how Iguodala will make up for Jack's offensive production, Zach Lowe of Grantland laid it out in plain terms when he described Iggy as a "souped-up Jarrett Jack" who "can do lots of things".
Furthermore, according to Kirk Goldsberry, in the areas where Jack struggled as a shooter/scorer, Iguodala excelled (and vice versa).
Jack was an excellent shooter from midrange, as well as from the corners while Iguodala, on the other hand, struggled mightily from these areas of the floor.
But this isn't necessarily bad news.
Surrounded by Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes, it's doubtful that Iguodala will be called on to take a lot of corner threes. Instead, the Warriors will likely take advantage of Iguodala's adeptness at getting to the rim, where he shot 67.8% from last season.
Given Golden State's ability to space the floor with their talented three-point shooters, Iguodala will find himself with a lot of room to drive, creating a dilemma for opposing defenders.
If the defense sticks to their man on the corners, Iguodala's path to the hoop will be relatively uncontested.
Notice here how Rondo, instead of abandoning Jrue Holliday, opts to makes a half-hearted swipe at the ball, which Iguodala easily avoids en route to a punishing dunk on Paul Pierce (who appears to have jumped about as high as he possibly can).
On the other hand, if the defenders guarding the players on the corners (Thompson/Curry/Barnes) decide to play off their men to prevent Iguodala from getting to the rim, they've just given three of the deadliest corner-three shooters in the league all the space they need to bury you with a barrage of threes. This past season, Curry shot 54.1% from the corners, Thompson shot 50.6% from the right corner (44.6% combined) leaving Barnes with the worst percentage of the trio, at a devastating 44.2%.
For the Warriors, replacing Jack with Iguodala means fewer midrange shots, and one less 40% shooter from deep, but Iguodala's ability to create better, and likely more, looks for other shooters will more than make up for the offensive production the Warriors are losing in Jack.
Iggy's Insatiable Defensive Hunger
Where the Warriors struggled defensively, Iguodala was shone.
This past year, the Warriors' opponents shot the fifth lowest field goal percentage in the NBA, per Team Rankings, at 43.9%. Despite holding their opponents to such a low percentage, Golden State still surrendered 101.6 points per game (20th in the league).
Two factors explain how Golden State managed to let this happen.
First, Golden State ranked 29th in the league in opponent three-point attempts with 23 attempts per game, which opposing teams converted into 23.8 points per game (more than every other team sans Houston, Denver and Charlotte). Second, the Warriors gave their opponents far too many opportunities to tally easy points at the free throw line, sending them to the line an average of 24.3 times per game.
So where does Iguodala fit into all of this?
If you've ever watched Iguodala play defense, then you're well aware of his unprecedented versatility. He's about as close to LeBron, strictly in terms of defensive versatility, as any mere mortal can be.
That’s not to imply that he never makes mistakes, but Iguodala forces his opponent to work hard on every single possession, and throughout the course of a 48-minute game, even the best in the league feel the effects of this.
Check out Iguodala explaining his defensive philosophy for guarding Kobe on the perimeter.
It's not just Kobe who feels the heat from Iguodala - Melo, too, knows all about what Iguodala can do when he zones in on you defensively.
Iguodala can't guard the entire perimeter, but his defensive proficiency even against the most daunting offensive players in the NBA, gives the Warriors a defensive weapon, the likes of which this young team has never had.
And, most importantly, when the NBA Finals roll around, Golden State now has someone who can match up with LeBron (as well as anyone can).
Because Iguodala can, for the most part, guard any given team's best player, the Warriors will be able to lessen the defensive load placed on Curry, allowing him to save his energy for the offensive end of the ball, not to mention the positive effect this will have on his injury-prone ankles.
In regards to Golden State's issue with sending opposing players to the line, Iguodala can't, at least directly, change the fact that Klay Thompson and David Lee averaged 3 personal fouls per game. However, Iguodala's ability to defend the opposing team's best player, effectively and intensely, without fouling will be a an unrivaled blessing for the Warriors.
Last season, Iguodala was 4th in the league in defensive plays per foul, only committing one foul ever 1.507 defensive plays.
Let's give that number some perspective.
In 2012-13, the highest ranking Warriors player was the one, the only, Kent "Towel Waving Extraordinaire" Bazemore, who averaged 0.733 defensive plays per foul (celebratory dances were not included when calculating this statistic), which was good for 88th in the league, and the highest ranking starter for the Warriors was Steph Curry, ranked 93rd, who averaged a whopping 0.687 defensive plays per foul.
Saying that Iguodala is simply a defensive upgrade for Golden State is about as big of an understatement that one can make: Iguodala is a gift from the Man above who has decided to have mercy on the Warriors ailing defense (and who loves that the Lakers are now the third best NBA team in California).
On offense, Iguodala's knack for scoring at the rim, combined with his solid playmaking and passing, should be more than enough to make up for the offensive production the Warriors lost when Jarrett Jack left. Not only that, but Iguodala's style of play will benefit Curry, Thompson and Barnes, who are likely to see an increase in open shots from three as Iguodala draws the defenders attention to himself while crashing through the line.
On the defensive side of the ball, Iguodala provides a (MUCH) more than sufficient solution to two key issues that Golden State’s defense desperately needed to address. He's a no-nonsense defender, capable of guarding anyone from Russell Westbrook to James Harden to LeBron James, and he does so all while avoiding sending players to the free throw line.
Iguodala is essentially the NBA's version of a Swiss Army knife, and if all goes as planned, his distinguished utility as a player could be just what Golden State needs to bring them one step closer to their first NBA Championship since 1975.