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Depending on who you ask, Andre Iguodala is either one of the most well-rounded players in the NBA, or more overpaid than a Wall Street CEO. Sometimes, the same person might give you both answers.
It’s not often a player is simultaneously over, and under, rated. For Andre Iguodala, it’s the story of his career.
Thanks in large part to his pterodactyl wingspan, Iguodala is easily one of the peskiest perimeter defenders in the league, a wing player capable of defending Kobe Bryant one night and Chris Paul the next. His feet are so nimble, you could picture him picking up the riverdance routine in about a week, you know, if he ever actually wanted to. And at the same time, he doesn’t use his top-1% athleticism to justify taking a ton of contested, Kobe-in-his-first-marriage shots. In fact, he dished out more assists last season than any small forward not named LeBron James. Coming off a stellar performance at the 2010 World Championships, a deeper than expected Playoff run this past season and what looks like a similarly solid outing at these Olympics, there’s no way Philadelphia should even think about trading him, right?
Unfortunately for Iguodala, it’s never that simple. From the moment he signed that six-year/$80 million contract, Philadelphia’s interest in trading him ranged from discrete to driving around town with speakers strapped to a car like Stevie Janowski, yelling “WHO WANTS IGGY? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, SOMEONE PLEASE TAKE HIM!”
Last year was no different. At the trade deadline, Iguodala was rumored to be wearing about a half dozen different jerseys by now. Yet, for the fourth consecutive season, Philadelphia stood pat. At this point, you have to wonder if it’s a case of them again not finding the right deal, or if we, the outside noise, are simply making an issue out of something that isn’t. Considering the contracts similarly talented small forwards like Luol Deng (6-years/$71 million) and Rudy Gay (5-years/$84 million) signed, you could make the case that he was paid the going rate. Maybe the Sixers don’t mind paying him $14 million a year for 12 points a season; I mean it is possible.
That is, of course, until you read back that previous sentence. Given the superstar structure in the NBA, every year we see the same postseason theme prove itself true- you need a star to advance more than a round. Iguodala brings a lot to the table, but he simply isn’t a dominant offensive creator and shouldn’t be the highest paid player on any team. When Philly signed him to that hefty contract, they clearly thought he would be that guy for them.
Back in 2008, a then 24-year-old Iggy was coming off the best season of his short career.
The Sixers can be forgiven for thinking that his scoring output would continue to increase and fill the void left by Allen Iverson. As we now know, that season wound up representing his offensive peak. Somewhat surprisingly, as his outside shooting touch improved over the years, his shot attempts have inversely decreased. To state the obvious, you won’t win a championship if your most talented and highest-paid player (now that Elton Brand was mercifully amnestied) is scoring 12 points a night.
So what should Philly do? Again, it’s not as if Iguodala doesn’t have talent. He not only made this U.S. team after all, but he’s actually seeing a fair amount of court time. Considering his multidimensional skill set, it’s not a given that Philadelphia would get equal value in a trade, especially since his contract still isn’t all that appealing.
At this point, it might make sense to just wait it out if you are Sixers GM Rod Thorn. When Iguodala becomes a 31-year-old free agent in two year’s time, Thorn will have a fair chance at convincing Iggy to take a slight pay cut with a new deal closer to what Gerald Wallace recently received (4-years/$40 million.) If Thorn can use the extra money to sign a star free agent while keeping their emerging point guard, the 22-year-old Jrue Holiday, the 76ers could make the arduous jump from also-ran to legitimate contender. Any team with Iguodala as a third option, in the Chris Bosh role, will be a strong Playoff team assuming the other two stars can create offense.
This summer, Iguodala is again proving how valuable he can be as a complimentary piece. It’ll be interesting to see if the Sixers can maximize his talents one way or another.
By Thomas Johnson (@tjohnsonwriter)
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