Regarding Andre Iguodala

February 4th, 2010 by John Krolik

The Dream:

There are young players, there are productive players, and there are available players. At the trade deadline, a team generally gets to choose two out of three. Andre Iguodala, however, can check all three boxes. He’s 26 years old. He’s had three seasons with a PER of 18 or better in the last four years. And evidently, the 76ers are currently open to moving him.

Danny Ferry has done an absolutely masterful job of surrounding LeBron James with high-quality role players during his tenure as GM. That being said, thanks to LeBron getting too good too fast, Luke Jackson’s back, DaJuan Wagner’s intestines, Ricky Davis’ head, Larry Hughes’ everything, and the sins of Jim Paxson, LeBron’s never gotten a young potential superstar to grow with. (Mo Williams is great for what he is, but he’s no superstar.) This might be the Cavs’ chance to get LeBron a true running mate.

There’s also something else. Iguodala’s a lock-down perimeter defender, both on the ball and providing weak-side help. He’s got off-the-charts athleticism and a Gumby wingspan. He’s not a natural shooter, but he can make shots when they’re open. He’s a good decision-maker and can make plays. This is borderline heresy, but it’s hard not to see more than a little bit of Scottie Pippen in Iguodala. Here are the career numbers:

S. Pippen: 16.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 5.2 APG, 2.0 SPG, 0.8 BPG

Iguodala: 15.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.5 BPG

Pippen wins across the board, but Iggy’s close in every category. Let’s go advanced:

S. Pippen: 53.6 TS%, 10.6 REB%, 23.1 AST%, 15.6 TO%, 22.5 USG

Iguodala : 55.9 TS%, 8.9 REB%, 19.3 AST%, 14.9 TO%, 19.7 USG

Still pretty darn close. (I will note that Pippen’s later years hurt his career TS%; with the Bulls, Pippen was always around the 55% mark.)

I’ve been opposed to comparing a LeBron sidekick to Scottie Pippen for a very long time. So when I say that Andre Iguodala could be the Cavs’ version of Scottie Pippen, realize that I do not make that comparison lightly. There are some issues with the analogy. I think Pippen was a much better decision-maker than Iguodala is, and a much more versatile offensive player in the half-court. The fit’s not perfect, either. As much as LeBron gets compared to Michael Jordan, his game honestly resembles a superpowered version of Scottie Pippen’s more than it resembles Jordan’s. (Pippen made a huge positive impact in every area of the game. LeBron is capable of dominating in every area of the game.)

The next Scottie Pippen, in search of a Jordan. Is that possibility enticing enough to make the risk worth it? Let’s break it down.

The Optimistic View:

First of all, Iguodala’s impact on the defensive end would be immediate. By the numbers, Iguodala may have been the best perimeter defender in basketball last season. What’s more, the numbers seem to make sense. Iguodala is a freak athlete with a 6-11 wingspan, and has been regarded as a nightmare defender ever since he came into the league. He’s also active on the weak side, as his block and steal numbers demonstrate.

The Cavs would become a scary defensive team if they added Iguodala. Anthony Parker is a very nice defender, but he’s no Iguodala on that end. With Iguodala, LeBron could roam free on the defensive end for the first 35 minutes of the game. Okay, he already does that. What the addition of Iguodala would mean is that the other team’s best scorer won’t get any easy baskets of his own while LeBron conserves energy and creates weak-side havoc for the majority of the game. Down the stretch, LeBron could take on the other team’s best scorer as Iguodala patrols the passing lanes and provides help. Iguodala and LeBron could be the best perimeter defensive tandem since Pippen and Jordan themselves. I don’t know about you, but I like the sound of that.

Add Delonte West coming off the bench, and you’re talking about 48 minutes of misery for opposing perimeter players. A few commenters have brought this up: who scores on a West/Iguodala/James/Varejao/Shaq lineup? It’s a good bet that Mike Brown’s had a few daydreams about a defense that includes Iguodala.

Offensively, Iguodala would be the best slasher LeBron James has ever played with. Iguodala loves to dunk the ball, and shot better than 70% at the rim in each of the last two seasons. This season, he’s gotten less easy opportunities at the rim, and has struggled to finish in traffic. Some of this may be due to the Sixers switching Andre Miller for Allen Iverson; only 50.4% of Iguodala’s shots at the rim have been assisted this season, compared to 57.1% last year. Playing with LeBron James, Iguodala could be an absolute force going at the rim on weak-side cuts and curls, and he also has the playmaking ability to find LeBron if the defense tries to collapse on his drives.

Iguodala is also very good in transition. The 76ers are an excellent fast-break team, and Iguodala is a big reason why. Iguodala runs the floor like a deer, and is more than capable of making the pass in the open court or finishing the break with emphasis. If the Cavs put Iguodala next to LeBron James, they could do some amazing things on the break.

Iguodala is also comfortable at the three, and has enough length to make more small-ball lineups very viable. At 26, Iguodala is already capable of giving the Cavs a new dimension on both sides of the floor.

The Skepticism:

Iguodala’s contract isn’t pretty. 12 million a year, and he’s under contract for five seasons. There’s no reset button on this trade if it happens.

There’s also the issue of scoring efficiency. Iguodala’s never had a mind-blowing TS%, and this year it’s at a career-low 52.3%. That’s well below league-average efficiency. Currently, Iguodala is a poor scorer from everywhere except the rim. He shoots 35.7% from inside of 10 feet, 25.5% from 10-15 feet, 37.0% from 15-23 feet, and 32% on threes. In fact,  Iguodala is shooting a miserable 44.4% on layups this season. Basically, Iguodala is an inefficient offensive player when he takes any shot other than a dunk. That’s not good.

The good news is that Iguodala’s being forced to take too many tough shots in Philadelphia, which he hopefully wouldn’t have to take in Cleveland. He’s taking 56% of his jumpers off the dribble, which is an absurdly high percentage for a player who isn’t a natural shooter. He appears to have a solid stroke when he sets his feet, so he might have much more success from the outside with LeBron and co. setting him up with open looks.

If Iguodala starts, there might not be enough shooting for the Cavs. A lineup of Williams/Iguodala/James/Varejao/Shaq only features one true three-point threat, and four players who aren’t comfortable at all from midrange. The Cavs are only now figuring out how to keep their spacing intact when Shaq is on the floor. Would there be enough room in the paint if another slasher was added?

There’s also the issue of what the Cavs would have to give up. If it’s just Z with a buyout and JJ, that’s one thing. However, the word is that the 76ers are looking to use Iguodala to offload Dalembert’s contract. A commenter made that work with the Cavs giving up Z, Hickson, Boobie, and Parker. That’s a lot to give up. Say what you will about all of those guys, but you’re talking about shipping out four rotation players from the league’s best team, including two starters. And as much as Z has struggled with his shot, the team still plays very well with him on the floor, and he’s the only true 4 or 5 on the team able to stretch the floor.

Making Iguodala fit could require a lot more run-and-gun or a lot more small-ball. I’m not sure if that’s a philosophical shift that Mike Brown is willing to make, and I’m not even sure it’s one he should make.

Final Verdict:

Just like I was about the Amare trade, I’m extremely torn about this deal. On the one hand, only an idiot passes on an opportunity to add a great talent entering his prime, especially one who resembles Scottie Pippen. On the other hand, only an idiot makes a trade that could seriously alter the chemistry of a red-hot team with the league’s best record.

I don’t see the 76ers giving Iguodala up for Hickson and cap relief, especially when they have Speights and Thaddeus Young. I also don’t see the Cavs giving up four rotations and taking on Dalembert’s bad contract just to get Iguodala, especially without a buyout agreement for Z. This is one of those trades that usually only happens if both teams really want it to, and I don’t think either team wants the trade that badly right now. If the interest from the 76ers is real, I would not have to make the decision that Danny Ferry is faced with right now.