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Warriors season review: Should Andre Iguodala win 2017 NBA Sixth Man of the Year?

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Often overlooked, but always appreciated - 6th man of the year candidate turns in another stellar season off the bench.

NBA: Finals-Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA hasn’t quite figured out their award show timing. For whatever reason though, on June 26th we will hear the announcement and finally find out if Andre Iguodala will earn the NBA’s 6th Man Of the Year (6th MOY) award. Win or lose, there’s no question that Iguodala was one of our most critical players all throughout the year, including the post-season.

Does the 6th Man of the Year award even matter?

Iguodala’s season is, of course, not defined by any award other the the Larry O-Brien trophy - but it sure would be a nice recognition of the sacrifices that he’s made. In his own words, Iguodala admits that he cares a little bit about this, even as he minimizes the importance of awards overall:

So I look at it a little different (than I used to). That is a role, a big role for that team. Because in the generation we are in, it’s hard to get guys to buy in. I don’t even know if I like the award part, to be honest with you. But I think it needs to be there to show guys that sacrificing and placing yourself in a role you might not be comfortable with, but maximizing that for your team, that needs to be celebrated.”

As Anthony Slater details in that article, Iguodala is something of a poster child for the 6th MOY and the sacrifices it entails to thrive in that role. But it is sacrifice with a purpose; even though he only averaged a career-low 5.4 shots per game (and scored only 7.6 points per game), he was 6th overall in plus/minus in the entire NBA. That means that without taking many shots and only playing limited minutes, he still managed to positively effect the game more than a number of “stars.” No other bench player comes close to sniffing this impact. As Slater pointed out, the next closest bench player is Patty Mills with a plus/minus over 100 points below Iguodala.

For an award that is historically awarded to a high-scoring player off the bench, it would be exceptionally meaningful for it to go to Iguodala this year - a recognition of impact over flare, true on-court value over flashy buckets... and we find out on Monday if the NBA is ready to send that message or not.

The numbers

I’m going to just gloss over the counting stats and instead look at the rate statistics in order to uncloud our eyes from the limitations of minutes played. As Steve Kerr said back in March,

It seems like it should just say highest scoring player off the bench award. Depends on how people look at it. But if you want to look at the best Sixth Man in the game, in terms of winning, there’s no way anyone is better than Andre. He’s like a starter for us.

In fact, if Iguodala does end up winning the 6th MOY award, he would be tied with Bill Walton for the player with the lowest scoring per game to ever win the award.

Obviously, this should tell us all we need to know about the value of his defense, which makes sense since Iguodala is primarily known as a defensive player these days. So rather than look at the offensive contributions per game, here are Iguodala’s per 36 stats since joining the Warriors:

Overall, a stable, if somewhat unimpressive line of 10 points, 4.5 assists and 5 rebounds per game. But there’s one important distinction this year that may go unnoticed when you look at the whole picture. This season, just about every category is up over his GSW career average. His TS% was an overall career-high for him, a very respectable .624. For someone who is not known for shooting prowess, I think it’s an overlooked factor when we talk about how well Iguodala played off the bench for the Warriors this season.

When we restructured our bench to go along with the acquisition of Kevin Durant, it was a strategic and intentional move towards less offensive risk, and more defense. Iguodala showed excellence in both of those areas this year. While Leandro Barbosa and Mo Speights were undeniably critical bench players for the Warriors in the prior season, they also showed an unsustainable ability to shoot the team out of the game.

Iguodala also led the league in assist to turnover ratio, a metric designed to show a players ball control in relation to their overall ability to create baskets for the team via passing. Within the Warriors team dynamic, this trait is more valuable than it would be in a vacuum because of our other primary playmakers’ propensity for careless turnovers.

Overall Grade: A

Kerr has called Iguodala a “stabilizing influence” so many times that it’s a cliche now. But like most cliches, it all started with a truth - Iguodala is something of a safety blanket. A bench player able to contribute at the top tier of efficiency, both in terms of shooting, as well as passing. A true veteran that leads by example and plays so unselfishly that it’s almost a fault. It’s no understatement to say that Andre Iguodala is the best player that comes off of any NBA bench.

And that’s what the basis of his season should be: how well did he do what he was supposed to do? At some point, those ageing knees of his are going to win the battle - but until then he can play a key role - as he did this year. It earns him an “A” from GSoM, and hopefully a little honorary award from the NBA as well. Because if you can just look past the all-important “points per game” metric, Iguodala outpaces the other 6th MOY candidates:

Given the roster we have, I’m sure I’d get laughed out of any casual conversation where I mentioned that we need Andre Iguodala. But we do. The Warriors need him. His reputation is built on his defense, but the “glue guy” roll he plays here is irreplaceable. I think the Front Office understands that as well, and that’s why I predict he’ll be coming back next year for another run at a championship.