Posted Nov 11 2009 12:05PM
Sometimes we forget, but there are two ends of the floor in the game of basketball. And while a player's offensive statistics are important, of equal value are the numbers the other team is putting up while he's on the floor. That's why Andre Iguodala is one of the most underrated players in the league.
If you want to stick to standard stats, there are numbers that illustrate Iguodala's value. Just take a look at the list of players who averaged at least 18 points, five rebounds, five assists and 1.5 steals last season: LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Iguodala.
If you dare go deeper, check out how important Iguodala's presence on the floor was for the Sixers' defense last season, when Philadelphia was the 12th best defensive team in the league with a defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) of 104.7. With Iguodala in the game, that rating was 103.5, which would put the Sixers in the top eight defensively. With him on the bench, it was 110.4, which would put them in the bottom three.
Iguodala's on-off-court differential of 6.8 points per 100 possessions on the defensive end was greater than that of every All-Defensive Team selection (first and second teams) except for James. Not coincidentally, Iguodala led the league in minutes played. But while his coaches clearly appreciated his value, other coaches apparently did not. Fifteen players received more All-Defense votes than Iguodala did.
Ironically, Iguodala's willingness to defend comes from his need to stand out.
"I was always a guy who could score the ball as a kid," he says, "but everybody wanted to score. And I always wanted to be different in some type of way."
When he got to the University of Arizona, he wasn't a big part of Lute Olson's offense. So he figured he'd make his mark with his defense. And when he got to the NBA, the Sixers already had a proven scorer in Allen Iverson.
"How do I get on the court?" Iguodala asked himself. "I had to lock down on 'D' to get my minutes."
Most impressive might be that Iguodala maintained his focus on the defensive end of the floor after he became the Sixers' best offensive option following Iverson's departure. And while he's remained one of the best defenders in the league, he has refined his offensive game.
His jumper is still inconsistent, but it has improved over the years. Just ask the Lakers and Magic, who both fell victim to deep Iguodala game-winners last season.
"He shoots the ball a heck of a lot better than I remember when he first came into the league," says new teammate Jason Kapono, who knows a thing or two about the art of the jump shot. "He was a respectable shooter [early in his career], but now he's more of a reliable shooter."
A Springfield, Ill.-native, the 25 year old Iguodala was a Bulls fan growing up. Michael Jordan was his favorite player, but he modeled himself after Scottie Pippen. And now, he's arguably the closest thing we've seen to Pippen since.
"I call him 'TCP,'" says Sixers coach Eddie Jordan. "The complete package."
With Andre Miller now in Portland, Iguodala has to take on more of the playmaking load in Philly. And while Jordan loves his star's unselfishness, he wants Iguodala's scoring average up in the twenties, a lot to ask of someone who's getting the toughest defensive assignment every night.
"We want him to really notch it up this year and move forward in his career by being a little bit more of an aggressive scorer and take over games," Jordan said.
Through seven games, Iguodala is averaging career highs in points (20.0), field-goal percentage (51.4), 3-point percentage (36.4), rebounds (6.4) and steals (2.14). But the Sixers are off to a sluggish start.
So far, forwards Elton Brand (just 10.1 points per game) and Thaddeus Young (40.7 percent shooting) are struggling in Jordan's Princeton offense, but the Sixers knew it would take time before they were clicking on that end of the floor. What's more troublesome are their defensive issues. Currently, Philly ranks 27th defensively, allowing 109.6 points per 100 possessions.
"The hardest part is trying to get five guys on the same page," Iguodala says, "to believe on both ends."
If the team gets its act together, then the appreciation for the player might start coming in. With All-Star balloting underway, there will soon be talk of players who deserve their first All-Star selection, and if the Sixers are winning, Iguodala should be at the top of the list.
John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.
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