Thursday was a big day for the Warriors’ franchise. Bob Myers called it, “a transformative moment”, and frankly, he just might be right. The day, of course, coincided with Andre Iguodala’s introductory press conference at Warriors headquarters, and may go down in franchise lore as the day the team truly turned the corner. Iguodala, who was acquired in a three-team trade with Utah and Denver earlier in the week, singularly symbolizes the separation between the Warriors’ less-than-ideal recent past and their bright, promising future. In a sense, his arrival may have just ushered in a New Bay Era of Golden State basketball.
Iguodala, himself, offers plenty to talk about. The nine-year NBA veteran has experienced significant success at the NBA level, with an All-Star selection and All-Defensive Team honors on his resumé, in addition to gold medals he won with USA Basketball (2010 FIBA World Championships in Turkey and 2012 London Olympics). He has size. He has athleticism. And most of all, he knows what it takes to win. His playmaking skills and ability to be a team player will fit in nicely with the current cast of Warriors, who by the way, were only two games away from advancing to the Western Conference finals without him, merely two months ago. It’s certainly arguable that Golden State offered the absolute ideal situation to best utilize Iguodala’s skills, and we’ll get to what fans can expect him to bring to the table in a moment. But first, it’s important to highlight exactly why his arrival represents such a monumental progression for the Warriors’ franchise.
In short, it’s not necessarily about the fact that Iguodala is now a Warrior; it’s more about how he became one. Entering the offseason, it appeared as if the Warriors would essentially keep the team that made it to the second round last season intact. Sure, there were a couple players that would need to have been resigned, but due to a lack of significant financial flexibility, no drastic changes were expected. One could argue that the natural progression of the Warriors’ young core could in itself be the equivalent of upgrading the roster, and that very well may still be true. But rather than sit back and be reactive to the situation, General Manager Bob Myers and Co. took the proactive approach, and pulled off one of the more unexpected coups in modern NBA free agency.
The mere fact alone that a player of Iguodala’s caliber had already identified Golden State as one of his preferred destinations is a sign that this is indeed a New Bay Era. In their recent history, it’s not as if the Warriors were frequently truly in the mix for the most prized players of the annual free agent crop, and Iguodala was undoubtedly near the top of multiple team’s priority list this summer. And although, technically, Iguodala was not acquired as a free agent, but rather by way of a sign-and-trade agreement, that may actually speak more about how significant of an acquisition this is. By getting creative and using their mutual interest with Iguodala as leverage to coerce a sign-and-trade, the Warriors didn’t just get a player they had long coveted, but did so in a manner that would provide enough financial flexibility to round out the roster, both this year and beyond. And most crucially of all, they did it without giving up any of the prized members of their young core.
So now the question becomes, how much better are the Warriors with Iguodala now in the fold? Well, it’s tough to quantify before any games have been played, but just by taking a look at how his skill set will mesh with the other players already on the roster, it becomes increasingly clear that Golden State has every intention of making deep playoff runs throughout his tenure with the team. His arrival would seem to indicate that one of the incumbent starters will be relegated to the bench, and while that may sound less than ideal for that particular individual, it’s hard to see how it’s not a tremendous development for the team as a whole. First off, by pushing one of last year’s starters into more of a “Sixth Man” role, the roster not only becomes deeper and more talented, but especially so within their shortened rotation. This means better players on the court for more minutes for more games. How can you argue with that? Second, adding Iguodala to the lineup gives the Warriors so much flexibility that the difference in minutes between the “Sixth Man” and that of the starters could be extremely minimal. Iguodala’s size and skill set offers the Warriors the ability to throw all kinds of different lineups out on the floor, and the best part is, they all offer different advantages. Think about this:
Say the Warriors want to go with a more traditional lineup. That means Iguodala slides into one of the wing positions, with the incumbent moving to the “Sixth Man” role and providing instant offense off the bench. Or, let’s say the Dubs want to go extra big. In that situation, Iguodala could play the two-guard position, with even larger players filling out the frontcourt. You like small ball, you say? Don’t worry, the Warriors still have that capability too. In such a lineup, Iguodala could move to the power forward spot, playing alongside a theoretically lethal trifecta of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes. It’s still small ball, but man, that’s pretty big for small (which is a good thing).
The point is, it doesn’t matter what lineup the Warriors go with. Adding Iguodala to the mix gives the team the ability to match up with just about anyone at any point in the game. With that added flexibility, Golden State is in a tremendous position to dictate the matchups on the court, rather than react to them. And, even in the event that they’re on the other side of that coin, they should still be alright. As mentioned, Iguodala is a phenomenal defensive player, and when added to the likes of the already-dominant defender Andrew Bogut and up-and-coming defensive stoppers in Thompson and Barnes, all of a sudden the Warriors are now a staunch defensive team with the potential to shut the opposition down, regardless of who they’re going up against.
In just a few short years, the Warriors have undergone an entire transformation. Gone are the days where Golden State was an afterthought. Here and now, the Warriors are viewed as one of the premiere destinations to play in the NBA. It didn’t happen by accident. This was a calculated progression, which required lots of patience and a dedication to the process. The end result?...
…Actually, we don’t know yet.
What we do know is that Iguodala is a Warrior, and the team is better off because of it.
You’ve waited a long time Warrior fans. Welcome to the New Bay Era.