Posted by Neil Paine on September 30, 2009
Quick, name the NBA's leader in minutes played over the past four seasons...
OK, turn in your answers!
That's right, since 2005-06, his second season in the league, no NBA player has logged more court time than Iggy -- and that's including the 2007 season in which he missed 6 games due to a lower back problem. And only Allen Iverson, Johnson, & James have averaged more minutes per contest than Iguodala over that span, meaning he's nothing if not one of most durable workhorses in the league. He's also a top-flight defender, having posted the 4th-best raw on/off efficiency +/- score in basketball in 08-09 (a year after he was the league's top defensive SG). Plus he consistently ranks as one of the best players in the NBA by every plus/minus metric out there, he scores often enough, and with good efficiency, and he's one of the better rebounding wings in the league. Here's what I wrote about Iggy before last season:
Iguodala is one of the top overall shooting guards in the league, an athletic leaping machine who excels at both ends of the floor. Iguodala's primary offensive weapon is his driving ability, where his quickness allows him to beat most wing defenders off the dribble, although he's also a solid passer and ballhandler capable of playing the 1 in a pinch. His jump shot is still lacking, however, which keeps him from being a bigger scoring threat (he still managed to pour in 20.5 P/40, though, good for 16th among SGs). Defensively, Iguodala is a stud, one of the NBA's absolute best; his anticipation and quickness lead to plenty of steals in help, and his strength & athleticism make him a superior one-on-one stopper on the perimeter. All told, Iguodala is one of the most effective wing players in the game.
So why isn't Iguodala more recognized as a star? I mean, he rarely even sniffs an All-Star vote, much less makes the team in the East... What's keeping AI2's game from being appreciated?
- Lack of team success: Since Iguodala arrived in Philadelphia, the Sixers have had just one winning season and three losing campaigns. They've made the playoffs three times, sure, but they've never advanced past the first round. Fair or not, a player's "Q rating" depends greatly on his team's W-L record -- the designated star player for a top-seeded team will receive a large portion of the credit for their success, even if he's surrounded by talented players. Conversely, Iguodala's supporting cast been decent (Andre Miller, Thaddeus Young), but sometimes inconsistent (Samuel Dalembert, Louis Williams) and sometimes terrible (Willie Green). Without a higher postseason profile, Iguodala's star will never really rise into the stratosphere.
- Big shoes to fill: It's always tough to become a franchise headliner immediately after the departure of one of the biggest stars in team history. Iguodala had to follow Allen Iverson as Philly's #1 option, and provided far fewer buckets (also fewer misses, better D, etc., but those things are harder to notice) and less of a flair for the dramatic -- remember, 6'6" ultra-athletes are supposed to do amazing things on the court, while 6'0" guys who drop 30 a night are few and far between. Simply put, Philadelphia will never embrace Iguodala like they did Iverson. Period.
- The hidden game: As previously alluded to, a lot of the things Iguodala does fail to show up in the box score, or at least are all but invisible to the typical fan. He scores only 19-ish PPG, but he does it with strong efficiency because he draws a ton of fouls (0.46 FTA/FGA is great for a perimeter player), makes a solid % from the stripe (.755 career), and hovers around the 50%-on-2-pointers equivalency mark on threes (32.5% career). He grabs an unspectacular 5.7 rebounds per game, but he pulls in 8.8% of available boards when on the floor, roughly the same as fellow 6'6" players like Ron Artest & Manu Ginobili, and more than Kobe Bryant. And then there's the defense. Yes, he has nice steal numbers, but he's more than just the gambler Iverson was/is -- he's got terrific size, length, athleticism... basically, you name the physical tool and Iggy has it defensively. His consistently high +/- scores only serve to verify his big impact on the game, as he has shown the ability to make the Sixers a far better team when he's on the court. Unfortunately, all of these attributes fail to show up in a traditional PPG/RPG/APG line.
- Lack of a jump shot: Okay, so this one is nobody's fault but Iguodala's... He's a shaky jump-shooter who compounds his lack of consistency by taking questionable shots from time to time. At age 26, Iggy desperately needs to improve on the ghastly .388 eFG% he posted on Js last season in order to take the next step as a higher-volume scorer. Perception is everything in the NBA, and as long as he's perceived as a mere slasher with no shooting range, he'll never get his due. The good news is that Iguodala shot a more respectable .430 eFG% on jumpers in 2006 and .419 in 2008; plus, his career 76% performance from the foul line suggests that he has the stroke to at least improve from mid-range.
Of course, Iguodala doesn't necessarily need the glare of the national spotlight to validate the quality of his play. Some players quietly make their teams better and never get big accolades; they simply do their jobs every night (besides, a 6-year $80 million contract shows that the Sixers do understand his value to a large degree). Still, you have to admit that it would be nice for a player of Iguodala's undeniable on-court impact to get some well-deserved love in 2009-10.
UPDATE - Check out Iggy's video diary, complete with a downright ill off-the-wall trick shot around the 1:00 mark: