The Golden State Warriors acquired Andre Iguodala during the 2013 offseason and will unleash him as their ace defensive stopper during the 2013-14 campaign.
The former Denver Nugget possesses a multitude of skills that make him an incredibly attractive commodity. He plays numerous positions and can also run the offense in a pinch because of his passing and ball handling.
His elite skill though is his defense. The new Warrior is arguably a top-five perimeter defender in a league that houses Paul George and Luol Deng to name a few. Iguodala presents strength, quickness and a set of arms that could make Inspector Gadget jealous.
In addition, he is a smart defender that understands his team’s defensive scheme. Consequently, he knows how to shade scorers and force them into low-percentage shots.
His value was exhibited during the 2012-13 season as a member of the Nuggets. NBA.com’s advanced stats tool tells us Denver allowed 105.3 points per 100 possessions when the swingman was on the bench. That figure when projected over an 82-game schedule places the Nuggets in the league’s bottom third.
With Iguodala on the floor though, Denver defended at a top-10 rate. Golden State has basically signed their very own form of an ice bucket to throw onto scorers whenever they get warm.
This is pertinent given that the Warriors were basically an average defensive team from a statistical standpoint in 2012-13. Andrew Bogut’s availability obviously skewed those numbers a little. The Aussie was the team’s best defender and only appeared in 32 games.
Furthermore, there were instances in which he played where he hindered the team’s defense because he was still getting back into shape and acclimating himself to the speed of the game.
Hence, there is a possibility the Dubs would have been better defensively in 2013-14 simply with a healthy Bogut. Management favored the idea of taking the defense into their own hands as opposed to leaving it up to chance though. Thus, the Iguodala deal occurred.
Just how good is the athletic marvel though?
Well consider this: NBA teams felt as though their best chance at scoring came when they avoided matchups in which Iguodala was involved. That meant running him through screens off the ball and running pick-and-rolls with the hope he would switch onto another player.
The defensive ace appeared in 80 games in 2012-13 and defended 83 isolation possessions that ended in shot attempts per Synergy Sports. On those plays, opposing players converted 30.1 percent of their field goals.
For the sake of comparison, LeBron James of the Miami Heat allowed 38 percent shooting in the same situations while Tony Allen of the Memphis Grizzlies yielded 36.1 percent per Synergy Sports. This is relevant because they are viewed as the two best perimeter stoppers in the league.
Both are better overall defenders, but Iguodala is especially fierce when defending scorers in isolations.
The one-time All-Star blends his physical attributes with great discipline when operating against the elite scorers in the league. Have a look below at how he defends Kobe Bryant:
Iguodala follows Bryant towards the sidelines where he is on an island and knows it. He keeps his distance from the Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar to ensure Bryant does not blow by him.
In addition the former Philadelphia 76er uses the shot clock as an extra defender by keeping the Laker at arms length instead of pressing him. Iguodala closes the defensive possession by not falling for head fakes and contesting the shot.
That kind of discipline and execution sheds some light on the reasons why stars like Carmelo Anthony converted 35 percent of his field goals with Iguodala on the floor and 40 percent when he rode the bench in 2012-13.
Watch him snuff Anthony on this shot attempt:
The former Olympian obviously cannot stop people from scoring but he can certainly make it difficult. It’s worth noting that even the best defenders can do things almost perfectly and still allow a score.
Bryant illustrates this in the video below:
Iguodala does not take a great defensive stance on the possession, but he still sends the Laker superstar towards his help where Kosta Koufos is waiting to bottle up the play (in Denver’s scheme, the Nuggets want to force Bryant towards the sidelines and he knows this).
Bryant uses the Nuggets’ big man as somewhat of a brush screen on Iguodala. He dribbles right at Koufos and pulls him in the direction of his primary defender who gets taken out of the play and ends up with a one-on-one against the big man in a scenario Bryant will take just about every time.
If that’s what it takes to score on Iguodala though, the Warriors will take it. His defensive brilliance gives Golden State a new identity and makes the team a difficult opponent to prepare for.
Mark Jackson will probably get creative and add a few defensive wrinkles (switches, traps, box-and-one zone, full-court pressure, etc…) to capitalize on the gifts of the Warriors’ new player.
Add a healthy Bogut to the equation and we might be talking about a defensive juggernaut.
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