I mentioned on Sunday that I’d have more this week about Andre Iguodala – here (some of) it comes.
Whenever the subject of trading Andre Iguodala or any Sixer has been proposed to Sixers GM Ed Stefanski, he would repeatedly answer that he would not make a trade unless it brought back equal value and made “basketball sense.”
The concept of equal value is an interesting one, if only because it has no consensus-approved meaning. No one can objectively quantify, at this point, the total value of a player. Stats such as Win Shares and PER are good starts but by no means tell us everything about a player.
So here, we’ll dig into what Andre Iguodala is worth to the Sixers, along with how much of a burden (if at all) his contract is to the team.
The area of basketball that Andre Iguodala most excels at is what is currently the hardest to quantify – perimeter defense. Individual defensive statistics previously consisted of steals, blocks, and reputation. Well, reputation wasn’t an official statistic, but these three combined to form the opinions of the best defensive players for the general NBA fan. Today, the same factors obviously influence perceptions – in the defensive player of the year voting, Kobe Bryant received first-team all-defense honors despite not having been on an all-defense level for the past year. There are several more deserving candidates, Iguodala being one of them (though you could easily discount him and Tony Allen based on minutes played).
Today, luckily, there are more metrics available for us to evaluate a player’s defense, though all are far from perfect, so take what I’m about to write with some caution. No real conclusions can be based solely off of these numbers. But I’ll do my best to illustrate his defensive prowess with what quantifiable metrics are available
The most notable recent statistic available is Opponent PER; though I could not find the full list*, I was able to find Iguodala’s rating from another website: 9.7. Since the league average traditional PER is 15, this indicates that Iguodala forced his opponents repeatedly into bad games. While the date precedes the end of the season, Iguodala didn’t play down the stretch, so I believe that would be an accurate end-of-the-season rating. Individual game numbers also show the effect Iguodala had on his opponents, as Depressed Fan chronicled earlier this year. Another measure of defense is opponent’s simple rating, also calculated by 82games.com (and I’ll link to the exact page to make sure you can see it). Iguodala led the NBA in opponent’s simple rating, with a 9.8 rating.
When looking at both, it’s easy to conclude that Iguodala is arguably the top defender in the NBA. Now, I won’t go there yet. First, the two metrics are related, so really we’re looking at two confirmations of the same rating. Second, as of now there is no real way to separate what constitutes individual defense with team defense, so the lines are blurred. But they do give us a nice, objective view of individual defense in the NBA. And these views put Iguodala at or near the top of the league.
*If you do have the link for the full list of defensive PER rankings, please add the link in the comments. I believe it’s from 82games.com as I’ve seen it before. Unfortunately, there is no search function on the site.
On the offensive end, Iguodala struggled in the playoffs. His shooting ability still needs a lot of work, and at this point it looks as if it might not improve. According to NBA StatsCube, the most popular drug among NBA bloggers, Iguodala shot 37% from mid-range. Mind you, he took more shots from that area than any other, including at the rim. According to the StatsCube, he took 295 mid-range jumpers, approximately 4.5 per game. Iguodala also took a ton of threes from the top of the floor, shooting only 30% from that range. Using this as proof, Iguodala’s biggest problem is shot selection: he takes too many shots that he’s not all that capable of making.
At this point, Sixers fans everywhere are nodding their head, noting that they know this already.
Anyway, moving on, when Andre gets to the rim, he’s insanely effective. Of course, all players not named Spencer Hawes experience the same effect – layups and dunks go in much, much more often than jumpers. Overall, despite shooting only 37% from the mid-range and 30% from the top of the floor, with his shooting percentage at the rim his overall percentage came to 44%, below his career average but the same as last year.
What he struggled with in shooting, however, he made up for in his abilities to rebound and create for others. Andre averaged 5.8 rebounds and 6.3 assists, which, along with his 14-plus points per game, put him in the company of only LeBron James as players who averaged 14-5-6 (pts-reb-ast) per game this year. LeBron nearly doubled his scoring impact, but the company certainly is impressive. He also averaged the 6 assists with a 3:1 assist:turnover ratio, ahead of point guards like Deron Williams and Raymond Felton.
On the team end, according to 82games.com (see the same link as before), the Sixers outscored their opponents by an average of 3.2 points (per 48 minutes) with Iguodala, and were outscored by 1.3 points with him on the bench. The Sixers were 36-31 with him on the floor, 5-10 without him.
So now that we have some ways to quantify his impact, we now have to look at the elephant in the room: his contract. Iguodala is set to make $13.5 million next year, with another year and an expensive player option left after that. Is he worth the deal? Good question. The money puts him as a top option on a decent team and a second fiddle on a contender. Well, considering he’s been our best player for the last 5 years, and the team has made the playoffs 3 times in that span, his contract isn’t ridiculous. In fact, it might even be fair. Andre’s an elite defender and one of the more versatile offensive players in the NBA, which puts him in elite company, though his shooting will keep him from being a top option.
It’s not hard to blame the average Sixers fan in some regards for their displeasure – the other 3 city teams have made the finals of their sport more recently than the Sixers, and all appear closer to reaching that ideal than this team.But they should take it out on management, not the player. Iguodala is misplaced as the best player on a contender, but as the second-best he’d be plenty good enough.