There is a small contingency, both locally and throughout the underbelly of NBA fandom and analysis, that believes Andre Iguodala is deserving of some ire regarding his play this year and the Golden State Warriors’ recent on-court struggles. While it is a small segment making these remarks, they are consistent enough to make me — a long-time Iguodala fan and frequent Warriors watcher — come to the defense of Iguodala and dedicate a Stat Central article to his play this season. (In all honesty I needed something to write about and this seemed like as good of a topic as any).
Not Just Better, At Their Best
The fact of the matter is, Andre Iguodala has been an unequivocal net positive for the Warriors this season. They are literally at their best offensively and defensively when he is on the court and as a result are one of the best teams in basketball when putting out lineups with Iguodala in them. The Warriors score 109.7 points per 100 possessions when Iguodala is on the floor and only post a 103.5 offensive rating when he is off the court. Defensively his effect is even greater as the Warriors hold teams to 95.2 points per 100 possessions when Iguodala is on the floor, while giving up 103.7 when he sits; that all leads to the Warriors being a net 14.6 with Iguodala on the floor (per 100 possessions) while posting a -6.0 net rating when he is not on the court. In context, those are the Warriors best offensive, defensive and net rating numbers outside of a few low usage players who mostly have played garbage time minutes (Dewayne Dedmon, MarShon Brooks and Hilton Armstrong), making it hard to deny that Iguodala does anything but help this Warriors squad when he is on the court.
To further drive the point home, though, the Warriors best lineup this season — which has also been one of the best lineups in the NBA this year — is their typical starting lineup of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee and Andrew Bogut. That lineup scores an amazing 113.9 points per 100 possessions while only allowing 96.7 — a quite remarkable 17.7 net rating. That same lineup, with Harrison Barnes in Andre Iguodala’s spot, has been quite horrible so far this season, despite being Golden State’s second-most used lineup — although, that is mostly due to Barnes taking Iguodala’s spot while Iguodala sat with a hamstring injury. That lineup has only posted a 97.4 offensive rating, along with a 104.0 defensive rating and an depressing -6.6 net rating. Think about that. The Warriors typical starting lineup is plus 17.7 per 100 possessions while that same lineup with Barnes in Iguodala’s place is -6.6. Now that drastic difference in success may have more to do with Harrison Barnes’ struggles this season, than they necessarily have to do with Iguodala influence — that same lineup with Draymond Green in Iguodala’s place has actually been slightly better than the starters in an pretty small sample size — but those numbers combined with Iguodala’s on/off ratings make it quite clear that Iguodala is one of the main reasons for the Warriors success this season.
Less Touches, Less Production
Still, many will point to Iguodala’s lack of individual production on the offense end, and feel that it is a real reason for complaint. And to an extent they would have a point. The Warriors have many issues on the offensive end at this point, but one of the major problems is their reliance on Curry, Lee, and Thompson for almost all of their offense. But Iguodala is far from the man to blame for the fact he has not contributed more on the offensive end. He has actually been an efficient scorer this season, and the only reason his raw numbers are not higher is the lack of touches he has been getting as a Warrior. Here is his shot chart so far this season and his shot chart from last season:
Last season Iguodala posted 45.1/31.8/57.4 shooting splits and earned a very middling True Shooting Percentage of 0.520. With the Warriors this year, his splits have jumped in every category (49/39.8/60) and his True Shooting Percentage is a very good 0.577. In terms of usage however, his numbers have taken a very noticeable dip. He is taking 7.32 shots per team’s 100 possessions with the Warriors when he took 11.23 shots last year with Denver. He is also taking less free throws — 2.25 from 3.45 — and slightly less attempts from three as well (3.17 from 3.67).
The contingency will argue that he needs to be more aggressive, but Iguodala is a player you cannot expect to be that successful when working from a blank slate — which the Warriors offensive tends to devolve to quite often, regrettably. George Karl, Iguodala’s former coach, said this of Iguodala a few months ago:
Andre loves the team to play as a team, he is a team guy, he is unselfish. The only thing he has had problems with in his career has been when teams want him to score 20 points a game. (Sheridan Hoops)
Iguodala is not necessarily being asked to be a 20 point scorer in Golden State, as Karl mentioned himself. But in asking him to score and be more aggressive, Iguodala’s naysayers are essentially asking him to play like one. That is, Iguodala is at his best when the system around him puts him in advantageous situations to be effective as a scorer and as a distributor. Mark Jackson does not necessarily put Iguodala in those positions like George Karl did, and as a result, Iguodala would have to create a lot on his own in order to assert himself like people want him to.
It is hard to blame anybody for Iguodala’s lack of production, mostly because it is a product of the environment and philosophy for Golden State. One thing is for sure, though; they are much better with him in the lineup than they are without him.