Top 50: Andre Iguodala, no. 26
The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.
by Khalid Salaam
So now what? That’s the question right? I mean in regards to Andre Iguodala. What happens now? Is there another level in him? Or is this it? When I say “this” I mean averages of 18, 6 and 5 and better-than-average (though not elite) defense. If this is it, that’s cool, but Sixers fans need a definitive answer this season.
Last year would have been nice too but Elton Brand’s injury put a pain on the whole team and guys played out of position. Except Iguodala doesn’t really have a position. On NBA.com he listed as a “guard-forward” which seems cool and versatile but is quietly suspect. He’s not a shooting guard, not with a 30 percent three-point average and a 72 percent average from the charity stripe. Not with a shaky handle, he’s not. And when I say shaky, I don’t mean he gets ripped on the regular. And I don’t mean he can’t blow past players… because he can. He just can’t dribble and execute plays at the same time. If he dribbles and has to look up for too long, a bad play usually ensues. But his handle is strong enough for his own needs.
When he doesn’t have to initiate any offensive sets, he’s athletic enough that his first step gets him past his defender and his second step gets him over whoever is guarding the basket. Once there, he’s dunking. And nobody outside of Wade has his dunk arsenal. He’s an intimidating, nasty dunker. But damn these dunks man. Damn them. When defenses collapse on him, he can’t shoot over them consistently enough. So he’s not a shooting guard. And the Sixers need a great shooting guard to get to the next level.
He’s a small forward. Except that the Sixers have one of those in Thad Young. Though Young can’t defend like Dre, he’s a solid rebounder and has a much cleaner offensive game. Because his offensive ceiling is higher, you’d like to keep Young at that spot. Last year out of injury desperation Thad played power forward and played respectably, but when Elton Brand comes back, Thad has to move back to his natural position (and no, Brand cannot play center. Seriously. The answer is no). Where does that leave Iguodala?
Only the Sixers brass knows and, honestly, who knows if they know. With the hiring and firing of yet another coach this offseason, you can’t trust that they have any understanding of what the heck is going on in the real world. It’s like Glenn Beck is running the team (I digress…).
The thing is keeping Iguodala isn’t a bad option. I gave the cons first because, well, I wanted to, but here are the pros… He’s brilliant on the break and finishes with authority damn near every time he can. He’s an effective defender. Strong enough to body most wing players, quick enough to stay in front of all of them and willing to take on the other team’s star player each and every night. He never misses a game. Last year he played in all 82 games, the year before the same thing. He’s willing to take the last and the tough shots. He has great anticipation, so he’s vicious in the passing lanes.
It’s the lack of a varied offensive repertoire that holds him back. If he had a real half court move, he’d break the top 20. But alas, he doesn’t, and that hole in his game hasn’t closed at all during his career.
Last season the team was exposed because of its half-court deficiency and though the team tried to address it over the summer (Kapono), it remains not just an Achilles heel but, in fact, a stress fracture. The Sixer roster is essentially full of specialists and the two guys who have more than one skill play the same position (I’m not counting Brand in this equation. Gotta see him play first…). It seems this is crossroads year for Iguodala, one that determines whether his career plays out in Philly or somewhere else.
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’09-10 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Brett Ballantini, Russ Bengtson, Toney Blare, Shannon Booher, Myles Brown, Franklyn Calle, Gregory Dole, Emry DowningHall, Jonathan Evans, Adam Fleischer, Jeff Fox, Sherman Johnson, Aaron Kaplowitz, John Krolik, Holly MacKenzie, Ryne Nelson, Chris O’Leary, Ben Osborne, Alan Paul, Susan Price, Sam Rubenstein, Khalid Salaam, Kye Stephenson, Adam Sweeney, Vincent Thomas, Tzvi Twersky, Justin Walsh, Joey Whelan, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.