Whichever NBA team is lucky enough to sign Andre Iguodala in free agency will be changing its culture and building a healthier future.
Before Kevin Durant offset the remaining competitive balance in the NBA, the Golden State Warriors were already a dominant force. Golden State won 67 games and the NBA championship in 2015-16, and secured 73 wins and an NBA Finals appearance in 2016-17.
While all eyes generally turn to Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson, not enough respect is given to the value of Andre Iguodala.
The sign-and-trade for Iguodala was a turning point in the revival of the Warriors. He agreed to a four-year deal worth $48 million on July 5, 2013, and made an immediate impact on the once floundering organization.
Golden State missed the playoffs in all but two seasons between 1994 and 2013, and Iguodala’s arrival helped set it on a better path.
The emergence of Curry, Green, and Thompson as All-NBA players became the driving force behind Golden State’s success. That much can’t be denied, but it would be unfair to dismiss how important Iguodala has been.
Due to what had been labeled as an underwhelming pre-Warriors career, however, that’s exactly what’s transpired.
Iguodala was selected at No. 9 overall in the 2004 NBA Draft and immediately turned heads with his two-way value. It didn’t take long for Iguodala to become a well-known player, as he earned a reputation as one of the most well-rounded players in the Association.
Unfortunately, when Philadelphia chose Iguodala over franchise player Allen Iverson, the burden became unrealistically heavy on the young player labeled as new AI.
It may have been difficult early on, but since 2011-12, Iguodala has come into his own as both a talent and leader. He led Philadelphia to the playoffs and made the All-Star Game in 2011-12, and was the best player on an otherwise star-less Denver Nuggets team that won 57 games in 2012-13.
In Oakland, Iguodala has cemented his place as one of the most influential players in the Association.
Once respected for his well-rounded statistics, Iguodala has sacrificed individual glory for the betterment of the team. During his four-year stint with Golden State, he averaged just 7.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.2 steals per game.
If you let the box score junkies tell the story, Iguodala has declined to the point of being no more than a quality role player.
For those who watch the games and evaluate the advanced metrics—and the former is of the utmost importance—the narrative is quite different. Iguodala may not post gaudy statistics, but his value is immense.
When Kevin Durant missed 20 games during the 2016-17 season, head coach Steve Kerr established as much by calling Iguodala, “Our best player here the last few weeks.”
"“He brings this incredible level of athletic ability and amazing awareness at both ends of the floor. Great defender, recognizes the game, the angles and setting screens. I think I’ve said it, recently, but Andre’s been our best player here the last few weeks. He’s been phenomenal.”"
That statement was made in the midst of Stephen Curry recording gaudy statistics that stole fantasy basketball owners’ hearts all over again.
When Curry underwhelmed and Thompson disappeared during the 2015 NBA Finals, it was Iguodala who stepped up. He played lockdown defense on LeBron James during the fourth quarters of the series, and stabilized the sputtering offense with his leadership and vision.
The result was a Finals MVP honor that box score warriors debate, and those who remember the series vividly understand—and no, a player who lost in six shouldn’t get the award.
Statistical proof: Golden State had net ratings of +17.2 with Iguodala on the floor and -8.9 without him during the 2015 NBA Finals—a difference of 26.1 points per 100 possessions.
Not only did Golden State have its best net rating with Iguodala, but it had its worst net rating without him.
In 2017, when the Warriors’ four—four—superstars reigned supreme, Iguodala was the glue. He managed egos, defended multiple positions, and set a tone in the locker room by sacrificing more than any other player on the roster.
It’s no coincidence that, when Golden State closed out the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the 2017 NBA Finals, Iguodala stepped up with 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting.
For those who forget, Game 5 was the same clash with Cleveland during which Draymond Green and Klay Thompson combined for 21 points on 7-of-23 shooting.
When the superstars struggle, Iguodala steps up—like clockwork, no matter what it is that he needs to do.
Evidence of the intangibles could be found in Iguodala’s elite value from an advanced metrics perspective. In 2016-17, Iguodala ranked No. 8 amongst small forwards in Real Plus-Minus—ahead of both Gordon Hayward and Paul George.
This isn’t to say that Iguodala is a better player than Hayward and George, but instead an acknowledgement of the facts: he makes his team better.
Whichever NBA team signs Andre Iguodala will be getting a player who can single-handedly change the culture.