Playing with Fire: Allen Iverson's Best Fit

Credit: Dime Magazine and dimemag.com

While AI is still, technically, under contract with Beskitas (aka Deron Williams’ new Turkish team) he has expressed interest in returning to the NBA for one last go-around.

His return here in the middle of the disastrous 2009-2010 season gave us mixed results – a strong box-office showing to start eventually faded away, and with injuries and a demotion in store when he returned, he decided to leave the team to care for his daughter, who was sick at the time. All in all, it didn’t work out as planned, no matter the reasoning behind it. But it gave Iverson a reunion with the city where he became one of the most entertaining players in basketball history.

As I linked to yesterday, Iverson talked with Dei Lynam about his wanting to return to the NBA. At age 36, it will not be an easy task for him, especially when he has never consistently played off the bench in his life. And it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

Furthermore, Zach Lowe did a tremendous job breaking down why teams would shy away from Iverson in favor of inferior players:

– Youth

– Size

– Locker room presence and leadership

– Singular, proven NBA skill

Iverson has never before committed to being a role player. And in order to play in the league next year, Iverson will have to become that. Can he? I think he can, if placed in the right situation.

What is the right situation, then? I’ll tell you now that it’s not here in Philadelphia – there’s no need for AI in this city. The nostalgia wore off in his first comeback.

His best fit is in a much more practical situation. In my opinion, the Lakers would be the perfect fit for Iverson.

Why? Three things:

1. He fills a need.

2. He will be surrounded by better players.

3. He has a chance to play significant minutes.

Iverson would, by my estimation, be the best point guard on that team. Granted, calling Iverson a point guard in his heyday would be similar to calling me a journalist, but in recent years he has become more of a facilitator than before. He’s also a good passer – his problem wasn’t seeing the open man, it was actually just finding the will to pass it to him.  But unlike their current point guards, he also possesses the ability to create his own shot, though not to the extent of a few years back.

Also, it helps that Derek Fisher was washed up 3 years ago and that Steve Blake isn’t much better than Derek.

Surrounded by Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, and Pau Gasol will make him more of a set-up man than ever before. Iverson hasn’t dominated the ball since his Detroit days, which were a disaster by all accounts. As a returning Sixer, he was a willing participant in offensive sets, though he could never find the discipline to run the Princeton under he-who-must-not-be-named. With Mike Brown’s “simple” offensive sets, AI shouldn’t have any trouble adjusting to a new system. And for all his defensive deficiencies, the twin towers in the middle should do wonders for covering up his mistakes, allowing him to roam for steals, which is what he does best.

And finally, the Lakers will have minutes for him. Not only can he play the point, but he can also fill in some time as a backup to Kobe Bryant. Shannon Brown is slated to be a free agent when the lockout ends. The Lakers do not have a proven in-house replacement, though the recently drafted Andrew Goudelock could compete for that spot. AI can fill in for 12 minutes per game at both positions, making him a meaningful contributor to what looks to be a good team yet again.

It’s the perfect scenario for AI. I hope he gets a chance to make something of it. And although the Lakers are playing with fire, Iverson may very well be worth that risk.

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