Ode to Iggy

Quick, name the NBA’s leader in minutes played over the past four seasons…

OK, turn in your answers!

I see a lot of Kobe BryantLeBron James… a stray Joe Johnson here and there. But the answer is actually:

Andre Iguodala.

That’s right, since 2005-06, his second season in the league, no NBA player has logged more court time than Iggy — and that’s including the 2007 season in which he missed 6 games due to a lower back problem. And only Allen Iverson, Johnson, & James have averaged more minutes per contest than Iguodala over that span, meaning he’s nothing if not one of most durable workhorses in the league. He’s also a top-flight defender, having posted the 4th-best raw on/off efficiency +/- score in basketball in 08-09 (a year after he was the league’s top defensive SG). Plus he consistently ranks as one of the best players in the NBA by every plus/minus metric out there, he scores often enough, and with good efficiency, and he’s one of the better rebounding wings in the league. Here’s what I wrote about Iggy before last season:

Iguodala is one of the top overall shooting guards in the league, an athletic leaping machine who excels at both ends of the floor. Iguodala’s primary offensive weapon is his driving ability, where his quickness allows him to beat most wing defenders off the dribble, although he’s also a solid passer and ballhandler capable of playing the 1 in a pinch. His jump shot is still lacking, however, which keeps him from being a bigger scoring threat (he still managed to pour in 20.5 P/40, though, good for 16th among SGs). Defensively, Iguodala is a stud, one of the NBA’s absolute best; his anticipation and quickness lead to plenty of steals in help, and his strength & athleticism make him a superior one-on-one stopper on the perimeter. All told, Iguodala is one of the most effective wing players in the game.

So why isn’t Iguodala more recognized as a star? I mean, he rarely even sniffs an All-Star vote, much less makes the team in the East… What’s keeping AI2’s game from being appreciated?

  • Lack of team success: Since Iguodala arrived in Philadelphia, the Sixers have had just one winning season and three losing campaigns. They’ve made the playoffs three times, sure, but they’ve never advanced past the first round. Fair or not, a player’s “Q rating” depends greatly on his team’s W-L record — the designated star player for a top-seeded team will receive a large portion of the credit for their success, even if he’s surrounded by talented players. Conversely, Iguodala’s supporting cast been decent (Andre Miller, Thaddeus Young), but sometimes inconsistent (Samuel Dalembert, Louis Williams) and sometimes terrible (Willie Green). Without a higher postseason profile, Iguodala’s star will never really rise into the stratosphere.
  • Big shoes to fill: It’s always tough to become a franchise headliner immediately after the departure of one of the biggest stars in team history. Iguodala had to follow Allen Iverson as Philly’s #1 option, and provided far fewer buckets (also fewer misses, better D, etc., but those things are harder to notice) and less of a flair for the dramatic — remember, 6’6″ ultra-athletes are supposed to do amazing things on the court, while 6’0″ guys who drop 30 a night are few and far between. Simply put, Philadelphia will never embrace Iguodala like they did Iverson. Period.
  • The hidden game: As previously alluded to, a lot of the things Iguodala does fail to show up in the box score, or at least are all but invisible to the typical fan. He scores only 19-ish PPG, but he does it with strong efficiency because he draws a ton of fouls (0.46 FTA/FGA is great for a perimeter player), makes a solid % from the stripe (.755 career), and hovers around the 50%-on-2-pointers equivalency mark on threes (32.5% career). He grabs an unspectacular 5.7 rebounds per game, but he pulls in 8.8% of available boards when on the floor, roughly the same as fellow 6’6″ players like Ron Artest & Manu Ginobili, and more than Kobe Bryant. And then there’s the defense. Yes, he has nice steal numbers, but he’s more than just the gambler Iverson was/is — he’s got terrific size, length, athleticism… basically, you name the physical tool and Iggy has it defensively. His consistently high +/- scores only serve to verify his big impact on the game, as he has shown the ability to make the Sixers a far better team when he’s on the court. Unfortunately, all of these attributes fail to show up in a traditional PPG/RPG/APG line.
  • Lack of a jump shot: Okay, so this one is nobody’s fault but Iguodala’s… He’s a shaky jump-shooter who compounds his lack of consistency by taking questionable shots from time to time. At age 26, Iggy desperately needs to improve on the ghastly .388 eFG% he posted on Js last season in order to take the next step as a higher-volume scorer. Perception is everything in the NBA, and as long as he’s perceived as a mere slasher with no shooting range, he’ll never get his due. The good news is that Iguodala shot a more respectable .430 eFG% on jumpers in 2006 and .419 in 2008; plus, his career 76% performance from the foul line suggests that he has the stroke to at least improve from mid-range.

Of course, Iguodala doesn’t necessarily need the glare of the national spotlight to validate the quality of his play. Some players quietly make their teams better and never get big accolades; they simply do their jobs every night (besides, a 6-year $80 million contract shows that the Sixers do understand his value to a large degree). Still, you have to admit that it would be nice for a player of Iguodala’s undeniable on-court impact to get some well-deserved love in 2009-10.

UPDATE – Check out Iggy’s video diary, complete with a downright ill off-the-wall trick shot around the 1:00 mark:

About Neil Paine

I work for Sports-Reference.com. I've been a freelance writer for ESPN, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, and Basketball Prospectus.

Posted on September 30, 2009, in Analysis, Player Audit. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. It’s funny that you wrote this today. I was hemming and hawing over where to rank Iggie for my fantasy draft earlier. I think there’s another point to be made about Iggie’s lack of a jumper. A lot of fans really admire precision moves and skilled shooting. I’ve heard people argue that Kobe’s better than LeBron on the sole grounds that Kobe’s game looks smoother. Iggie is sort of like a mini-Bron. He’s a phenom athlete who does a lot of things well, but he doesn’t do very much pretty.

  2. Minutes played is often overlooked and increases a players value substantially.

    I would like to see a blog on players who played their entire career of at least 10 seasons with just one team, a truly great achievement when you really think about it and very rare. I think Reggie Miller was the last to do it.

  3. Yes do such a thing!!

  4. Nah, to REALLY see who has played the most minutes in the last 5 years I would think you’d have to include the playoffs and the regular season, not just the regular season.

  5. Nah, then you’d have to include individual stats like points, boards, or assists.

  6. Joe are you only considering retired players? Kobe, Pierce, Dirk, & Duncan are still trucking for their teams with more than 10 seasons under their belts.

  7. It’s not hard to find good things about Igoudala’s game but it isn’t hard to find his shortcomings as well. Did it occur to you that maybe Igoudala isn’t recognized as a star because he isn’t one? In today’s NBA where everyone is desperately looking for the next superstar how is it that your the only one who sees Igoudala as one? To write “Iguodala is one of the top overall shooting guards in the league” is ridiculous to the point it is laughable. If you were paying attention, Igoudala’s time last year as the starting SG was as close to being considered a total failure as you get. He simply could not play the position. Did it occur to you that your first point “Lack of Team Success” is as much Igoudala’s fault as anyone else, especially if your think he is the team’s star. Great players have a habit of making the players around them better and this simply hasn’t happend in Philly. Your point about following Iverson almost made me think you were writing this sarcastically. Philly fans would love to have an NBA team with a legitimate star they could get behind. As much as Iverson was loved by some he was not embraced by everyone.

    Igoudala needs to have team success to validate whether he is a great player or not. At this point he is vastly overpaid and hasn’t come close to proving he is worth the big contract.

  8. Gee, that must be why he makes the 76ers so much better when he’s on the floor. Because when he was in the lineup, Philly played like a 47-win team (despite sharing 1542 MP with the hideous Willie Green), and when he rode pine they played like a 22-win one, including a defensive mark as bad as Sacramento’s (the Kings had the league’s worst D). Simply put, he consistently makes Philadelphia a much stronger team when he’s on the court. I agree that he’s a lot better as a SF than a SG, but his 16.3 PER when manning the 2 hardly screams “total failure”. He’s an elite player, plain and simple, and the only folks who don’t recognize it are people who don’t pay attention to defense and other finer points of the game of basketball.

  9. 83SixersRocked

    Reb, I’m sure a lot of things “occurred” to him. I think your post would be taken more seriously if you posed another candidate rather than just sour grapes and superlative adjectives, or if you paid the attention that you suggest was lacking; the article never said he was a star.

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