Every awards season, there’s a debate about playing time. Draymond Green was easily the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year, but he’s only played 40 games, barely half the schedule. Last year, Nikola Jokic was MVP in part because he played 21 more games than second place Joel Embiid. And now we are looking at another huge controversy in the NBA analytics community, because despite having plate in just 27 games, Andre Iguodala of the Golden State Warriors is a finalist for the prestigious Twyman-Stokes Teammate Of The Year Award.
The finalists for the 2021-22 Twyman Stokes Teammate of the Year Award.— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) March 30, 2022
The annual honor recognizes the player deemed the best teammate based on selfless play, on- and off-court leadership as a mentor and role model to other NBA players, and commitment and dedication to team. pic.twitter.com/R063LXOlxh
According to NBA PR, the award is “based on selfless play, on- and off-court leadership as a mentor and role model to other NBA players, and commitment and dedication to team.” Andre has certainly been selfless this year, averaging nearly as many assists (3.7) as shot attempts (3.9) on the season. It would be even closer if this miracle pass against the Bulls had rightly counted as five assists.
And what’s more selfless than giving away most of his minutes to under-privileged youths like Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga? That’s true charity! He does a lot of mentoring of Steph Curry on the golf course, making sure that Steph’s keeping his head down during his swing. Yes, this season would have to lean heavily on the off-court part of his leadership, but in all seriousness Iguodala really is like an extra coach. Not just because of his useful advice and encouragement to the younger Warriors, but because even when he’s out with a sore back, he’s on his feet, stalking the sidelines, and working the referees like a true NBA coach.
Now to all those haters who think Andre’s missed time should disqualify him from contention, let me point you to the first-ever Teammate Of The Year, Chauncey Billups. Billups played only 22 games for the 2012-13 LA Clippers. Billups also only averaged 2.2 assists, not even approaching Iguodala’s level of generosity. Dirk Nowitzki played only 54 games for the 2016-17 Dallas Mavericks, though his Teamwork/48 Minutes numbers were off the charts. Jrue Holiday played 61 as 2019-20 Teammate Of The Year for the New Orleans Pelicans, and Vince Carter played 60 for the 2015-16 Memphis Grizzlies. It’s not about counting stats; it’s about the willingness to build a room in your house for a rookie on your team.
Now some people will object that Andre may retire after this season, that if he’s really Teammate Of The Year, shouldn’t he come back to try and get a back-to-back TOY trophy? That’s not the case at all! Nearly half of the TOYs didn’t return to their old team the next year, including Billups, Shane Battier, Mike Conley, and Holiday. Perhaps they realized they peaked as teammates and wanted to leave on top, but the important thing to remember is that this is a single-season award. Otherwise they’d give it to Ricky Rubio every year.
The award is named after former Rochester/Cincinnati Royals teammates Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes. Twyman became the legal guardian of Stokes after his career ended due to a traumatic head injury, taking care of him until his death. And there is no doubt in my mind that Andre Iguodala would absolutely adopt Andrew Wiggins after his inevitable nervous breakdown, as a result of All-Star-related stress. I would also bet that Chris Chiozza has slept on Andre’s couch at least once.
Who are the contenders, besides Iguodala? DeMar DeRozan is probably too good of an actual player to win, as only Duncan and last year’s winner, Damian Lillard, have received MVP votes in their TOY season. Lillard is a special case, as the NBA goes out of his way to make up trophies for him - see the 2020 Bubble MVP award - so he won’t harass reporters, like his team did when he didn’t win All-Star MVP in 2021. Udonis Haslem can’t win because he tried to fight a Miami Heat teammate, and Jeff Green shouldn’t win because the Utah Jazz also hate each other. Chris Paul is too good and also yells at his teammates constantly, Holiday’s a former winner, and Kevin Love is more famous for being a bad teammate than a good one, although he’d be a front-runner if the NBA had a Comeback Teammate Of The Year Award.
Grant Williams of the Boston Celtics is far too young - he’s 23, and the youngest-ever winner is Holiday, at age 29. Same goes for Jaren Jackson Jr of the Grizz - 22 years old, and also a Defensive Player Of The Year candidate. That leaves Boban Marjanovic of the Dallas Mavericks, Fred Van Vleet of the Toronto Raptors, and who I feel is the leading contender, Jeff Green of the Denver Nuggets. FVV probably ruined his chances at this award when he made the All-Star team, and while Boban dominates in the advanced teammate stats - his GORP (Geniality Over Replacement Player) numbers are staggering - Green is tough to beat. He has played for 11 teams since 2007, and he’s had over 200 different teammates. He’s associated with terms like “glue guy,” “secret weapon,” and “underrated” - but he’s not so good that he’ll make an All-Star team, or play for the same team for more than one year. And he’s 35 years old, almost exactly the median age of a TOY winner (34.8).
So while Jeff Green should be the favorite, Andre Iguodala is a perfectly legitimate candidate for the Teammate Of The Year, even counting his missed time. And if someone gives you any guff about it, ESPN’s basketball insiders will tell you it’s perfectly acceptable to call them a jackass.