by Jake Appleman / @JakeAppleman

I’m trying to understand something. If defense is roughly half the game, how is the best defender from the team that ranked third in defensive efficiency last season—a guy who is arguably the best perimeter defender in the League—the 26th best player in the NBA?

In part, it’s because so many respect the ball and who has it, not off-the-ball action. Having the ball and using it for your own good means power. It means you will score. It means you will be marketed.

But sometimes you have to defend the guys who defend.

Remember: Five years ago, when he was younger and not quite in his prime, Andre Iguodala scored 20 a game—well, 19.9—for a Playoff team with a solid defense… that he was a big part of. Oh, and he did that next to Andre Miller, who is half of the fascinating two-headed point guard monster suiting up next to Iguodala in Denver this season.

Iguodala was good enough to make the United States Olympic team and thrive in London. He was good enough to aid and push a balanced team to within one game of the Eastern Conference Finals. In a League so often defined by cool nerves under pressure, he was composed enough to bounce back and sink two free throws to finally get the Sixers out of the first round in his first All-Star season.

Yet, at least as it pertains to the voters here, the understanding of what Andre Iguodala embodies seems to have regressed when it was supposed to evolve. Are we still so jaded that when we don’t see stat accumulators insert*ball*in*hoop at a frequency that pleases us… we devalue their other contributions? Andre Iguodala was a better shooter last year when he averaged 12.4 ppg than when he almost hit 20 per; he just shot less.

All of this to say: please enjoy the Denver Nuggets this season. Please enjoy Manimal and McGee and Ty Lawson and Andre Miller and the talented folks sent back in the Carmelo Anthony deal. Let me be the last of hundreds of NBA diehards urging you fire up the League Pass and bask in Nugget basketball.

And the guy flying around the court for emphatic dunks and shot-altering close-outs for a team likely to win a ton of games and possibly make huge noise in the Playoffs? He’s always been this player, this team-improving talent; you’ll just be seeing him at altitude now.


Where should Andre Iguodala rank in the SLAMonline Top 50?

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2012
RankPlayerTeamPositionPos. Rank
50Greg MonroePistonsC8
49Tyreke EvansKingsPG14
48Brandon JenningsBucksPG13
47Stephen CurryWarriorsPG12
46Ricky RubioTWolvesPG11
45Al JeffersonJazzPF14
44Anthony DavisHornetsPF13
43Serge IbakaThunderPF12
42Al HorfordHawksC7
41Ty LawsonNuggetsPG10
40Danny GrangerPacersSF6
39Tim DuncanSpursPF11
38John WallWizardsPG9
37Monta EllisBucksSG8
36Zach RandolphGrizzliesPF10
35Roy HibbertPacersC6
34Tyson ChandlerKnicksC5
33Eric GordonHornetsSG7
32Kevin GarnettCelticsPF9
31Manu GinobiliSpursSG6
30Amar’e StoudemireKnicksPF8
29Marc GasolGrizzliesC4
28DeMarcus CousinsKingsC3
27Paul PierceCelticsSF5
26Andre IguodalaNuggetsSG5

Notes
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’12-13 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Maurice Bobb, Rodger Bohn, Brendan Bowers, Franklyn Calle, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Adam Figman, Eldon Khorshidi, Eddie Maisonet III, Ryne Nelson, Ben Osborne, Allen Powell II, Sam Rubenstein, Jonathan Santiago, Abe Schwadron, Leo Sepkowitz, Dave Spahn, Ben Taylor, Tzvi Twersky, Peter Walsh, Tracy Weissenberg, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Dave Zirin.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.