"Andre Iguodala thinks he's Kobe Bryant!"
"I'd like Iguodala if he'd accept his role offensively."
These are some of the claims you'll hear if you turn on talk radio, or even visit some 76ers blogs or message boards.
Let's step back and think about that rationally. This is a guy who this year is averaging 10.1 field goal attempts per game in over 34 minutes. He averaged 11.3 attempts last year in nearly 37 minutes.
Not only is he not even remotely close to Kobe Bryant's field goal attempts (24.2 per game in 38.4 minutes) or usage rate (38.2 to Iguodala's 18.9), he's not even close to the team leader in either categories. He ranks 10th on the team in field goal attempts per minute and 7th on the team in usage percentage.
Kobe Bryant indeed.
Here's the rub, as I can already hear detractors complain about paying Iguodala $13 million per year to take 10 field goals per game: Even with limited touches, he's 3rd on the team in PER and 1st in Win Shares. Iguodala is quietly having the most productive season of his career.
Of players who have played at least 100 minutes this season with a usage rate below 20, Iguodala's 19.2 PER is tops in the league among perimeter players, as is his 0.196 Win Shares per 48 minutes.
Iguodala supporters have long argued that he would thrive in a non-lead role, and that he was being asked to fulfill a role his skills didn't fit. Improve the teammates around him and you could go back to appreciating the insanely valuable all-around player. While Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner aren't near their apex offensively, their progression has allowed us to see glimpses of how valuable Iguodala can be even with a decreased offensive role.
Iguodala has always been an underrated catch and shoot player, ranking in the top half of the league in terms of efficiency on catch and shoot situations, something he has done 4 of the past 5 years. Because he's become less of a focal point and is forcing his offense less he's taking less of his shots off the dribble, where he's always been weak. The percentage of his half-court offense coming from off-the-dribble jump shots is the lowest it's been since Allen Iverson left (the first time).
The continued emergence of Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner, and even the continual progression of Thaddeus Young and Louis Williams, has allowed Iguodala to take a back seat offensively. He hasn't been dominating the ball. He's not holding back Holiday or Turner. He's allowing them to develop, while still being an insanely valuable player in his own right.
He's not even "thinking he's Kobe" in late game situations. He's averaging a measly 13.5 field goal attempts per 48 minutes in clutch situations according to 82games.com. This is a drastic change from past years (21.9 field goal attempts/48 last year, 22.6 the year before in 2009-2010, 20.6 in 2008-2009, and 20.1 in 2007-2008). It's also well behind Louis Williams (41.7 field goal attempts per 48 minutes in the clutch, at 36.4% shooting. That's not a typo), and Thaddeus Young (18.7 field goal attempts/48), and right in line with Jrue Holiday (13.4 field goal attempts/48). And he hasn't complained about it once.
Furthermore, his passing is as valuable as ever. Iguodala's always been a great transition player, and sometimes people falsely use this to diminish the impact he has had as a creator in the half-court. So far this season, his half-court assist-to-turnover ratio is actually better than his transition assist-to-turnover ratio, and 76% of his 5.0 assists per game have come in half-court sets.
And he's still playing all-league quality defense.
Using 82games.com once again, Iguodala is holding opponents to a PER or 8.4. A reminder, the league average is 15.0, and it gives Iguodala a +10.7 PER differential. These stats (both opponents PER and PER differential) are often times seriously misused and not necessarily representative of the point you're trying to makes. A perfect example of this is Jodie Meeks, who is holding his man to an 11.2 PER. That number seems impressive when you look at it in a vacuum, but Jodie Meeks is almost always guarding the opponents weakest offensive player. So holding a guy who typically averages an 11 or 12 PER to 11.2 isn't all that great of an accomplishment.
Iguodala, on the other hand, is almost always defending the opponents best player. Holding a guy who typically averages a PER of 18-20 to 8.9 is borderline absurd. To put this in perspective, let's compare this to what other top defenders (as determined by the GM survey) are holding their man to: Kobe Bryant (12.4), Tony Allen (12.8), Rajon Rondo (13.1), LeBron James (9.9), Russell Westbrook (15.1).
Oh yeah, and he's the best defensive player on the best defensive team in the league. He's playing as well, if not better, defensively than any perimeter player in the league, and has been for the past 2 years.
So, he's not dominating the ball. He's not holding back Jrue Holiday or Evan Turner. He doesn't think he's Kobe Bryant or Paul Pierce, either during the first 3 quarters or the 4th. He's taking better quality shots, making his open shots, finding the open teammates, producing as much as anyone in the league who gets the ball as little as he does, and is defending as well as any perimeter player in the league.
Whether or not this means Iguodala will make the all-star team is another matter, and whether he should (or will) is something that will come up later. My short answer to that question is I think he should make it, but won't. Wing players averaging 13 points per game don't make their first all-star appearances traditionally. You either need big scoring numbers or previous history at the game.
That being said, it's time to stop obsessing over what Andre Iguodala doesn't do and appreciate what he does.