Andre Iguodala: The Grass Isn't Always Greener

The phenomenon is fairly common, to the point of predictability.  A young player is drafted, and if taken outside of the very top of the draft, expectations are tempered.  "It will take a few years", "project", or "role player" are often times used as descriptors.  We as fans look at the positives while assuming the negatives can and will be corrected.  You can look back at Thaddeus Young who, when he came out, was a high energy hustler with deft touch around the rim.  Two years later -- and at the youthful age of 21 -- he's a a player without a right hand or a true position to defend.  Neither of these negatives are new, it's our perspective that has changed.  

This tendency comes to a boiling point after a player comes off their rookie scale contract and becomes the highest paid player on an underachieving team, or in Iguodala's case the second highest paid player.  Pau Gasol went from rookie of the year, to franchise player, to under-appreciated softie, to championship contributor in short order.  In the end, Pau Gasol didn't change all that much, his role changed, and through time our perception of him followed.

During recent times, Andre Iguodala has been criticized far and wide, from people saying you can't win with him as a shooting guard, to complaining because he shoots to many jumpers, to suggesting he needs to be moved in order for this team to improve.  Turn on the radio, talk to fans, read blogs, the criticism is rampant.  It has temporarily died down with his recent good play, but will return with the next jumper he misses.  In my opinion, Andre Iguodala is beginning to be taken for granted, which is a mistake.  This team has two players who are consistent contributors on both sides of the ball, Holiday and Iguodala.  They're the core you build around.

I've argued in the past that, when confined to the half-court, Andre Iguodala hasn't been a great slashing wing player.  His pedestrian first step (when taken in context with the rest of his athleticism), mediocre ballhandling and below average touch around the rim and body control have as much to do with his inability to be a top scoring option as his outside shot does.  The fact is, Andre Iguodala is not, and likely never will be, a number one option.  

When did this become a newsflash?  Why were expectations changed when Iguodala signed his contract?  His bank account changed, not his skillset.  If anyone, fans or Stefanski, were signing Iguodala to be a top option they were destined to be disappointed.  I don't blame Iguodala for accepting such a lucrative deal, if Iguodala is overpaid that is Stefanski and Stefanski alone who is to blame.

(I also tend to agree with Brian that Iguodala isn't as overpaid as some state, but that's another argument).

A few years ago when Iguodala beat out incumbent Glenn Robinson, his defense, rebounding, transition play, and passing were drawing rave reviews.  5 years later all of that still exists, and had anyone told you Iguodala would develop into an efficient 18-20 point per game scorer most would have been ecstatic.  The rarity of a 17 point, 5 rebound, 5 assist wing player has been oft-stated.  If more advanced stats are up your alley, let me know how many wings in the 10 win-shares per year category are realistically acquirable for the Sixers this offseason, how many players we can realistically obtain who are in the top 25 two-year adjusted plus-minus, or how many wings have had PER differentials of +5.2, +7.7 and +6.9 the past three years .

The change in salary, and change in role on the team, has overshadowed his positives, and instead of seeing the great defense, the great interior passing, the tremendous transition play, and the legitimate offensive option he has developed into we instead turn our attention to what he doesn't provide.

As I said, this is anything but an isolated incident.  The grass is always greener elsewhere.  In 2006-2007 Paul Pierce was fighting through the toughest season of his life, with critics bemoaning that he couldn't carry the team and it was time to blow the Celtics up.  Kevin Garnett was putting up gaudy stats and getting nowhere, and Ray Allen spent the last two years with the Sonics trying to get within earshot of .500, let alone replicating the 50 win lightning-in-a-bottle season he experienced in 2004-2005.  The trio averaged 29 wins amongst their respective teams, all with detractors telling them what they couldn't do.

Perhaps the most similar example -- Iguodala will never be in the league of Allen or Garnett -- would be Rasheed Wallace, not so much in the similarity of their games but in the similarity of their situations with their franchises.  The temperamental forward with talent bigger than his production, the Trailblazers had become wary of failed attempts to try to build around Wallace, instead jettisoning him away to build around Zach Randolph.  Wallace was placed into a role that better suited his talents and immediately became a key contributor on a championship team.  That dynamic post-scoring power forward who took his place?  After three seasons of the Blazers failing to win more than 32 games Randolph was gone, now on his fourth team in four years.

Are there times Andre Igudoala's body language might frustrate me?  Sure, but I think armchair psychology might not be as exact of a science as some fans tend to view it as.  

Does that mean I think Iguodala's untouchable?  Hardly.  I've stated before that there isn't anyone on the team I would let get in the way of the Sixers obtaining a verifiable superstar.  A similar, two-way player who might be a better fit to put around the current talent and I could listen.  Would I trade Iguodala just to get out of his contract?  Not at all.  Not unless you can convince me why LeBron James would chose the Sixers, fresh off a 27'ish win season and having jettisoned their best player, over the plethora of other options out there.  I generally don't believe in building the core of a contender through free agency.  For every Joe Johnson signed there's two Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva's, and you can watch Minnesota's struggles this summer as an example of a bad team relying on free agency to build their core.  You have an extremely useful player in Iguodala, trading him for the purpose of cap space is an enormous risk.

Andre Iguodala is not a superstar, not a top option to design your half-court offense around, and asking him to do so provides diminishing returns.  If asked to be a top option, Iguodala will end up taking more jump shots than you would like.  Put Iguodala in his proper role and enjoy watching the great defensive, superb passing, demon in the open court we should be enjoying right now, but instead overreact and nitpick based on what he can't do.  The grass is not always greener.

(My apologies for the abundance of links to some of my past articles.  Since I'm new here, I figured I'd provide a few examples of my views on the team if you're not familiar with me).

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