Unlikely Hero: How Andre Iguodala Saved Golden State's Title Hopes
Andre Iguodala played the starring role for most of his career before learning how to make an impact off the bench. While he played hero for the Sixers and made game-winners for the Nuggets, he's also made big shots for the Warriors.
But in the playoffs, it's more than just big shots for Iguodala. Every detail is scrutinized, and every mistake is criticized. And when the Warriors have called upon Iguodala, he has stepped up in a big way.
Let's take a look at his impact in the 2015 playoffs.
Finding His Role
After starting every game he has played in his career, Iguodala was relegated to the bench in his second season with the Warriors but still received starter minutes. And despite fewer opportunities (he averaged a career-low 6.4 shots per game), Iguodala made the most of his attempts, putting up the third best Effective Field Goal percentage (eFG%) of his career at 54.0%.
Iguodala made an impact is defensively this year, too, albeit inconsistently. His 102 Defensive Rating in the regular season was the third-best of his career and while he's had the same exact rating for the playoffs, it's the second best Defensive Rating of his playoff career. However, his true value didn't come until the Finals, according to the table below.
|Defensive Rating||Reg. Season||v. NOP||v. MEM||v. HOU||v. CLE|
During the regular season, the team as a whole thrived better defensively when Iguodala was on the court. However, that didn't translate well in the playoffs, especially against the Pelicans and Rockets. The Warriors were much better with Iguodala off the court in the first and third rounds as we notice a big swing in the Defensive Ratings.
Against the Grizzlies, things returned to the normal level the Warriors experienced during the regular season with a 98.3 Defensive Rating with Iguodala, but the team was still better defensively when he wasn't on the court. Yet, against the Cavaliers, he's made a world of difference on defense. What changed?
Contributing All Over
It's actually been more than just the defensive side of the ball that Iguodala has made a difference in the NBA Finals -- it's been his contributions all over. Let's look at various metrics and to see which series has been his best of the 2015 playoffs.
According to PER, Iguodala was non-existent in the series against the Pelicans and a wash against the Rockets. His 8.1 PER from the Pelicans series is well below what we consider an average PER of 15, and he barely surpassed the average against the Rockets. The only silver lining against the Rockets was that his 0.3 Defensive Wins Shares (DWS) was the best on the team and his Win Share total was the third best.
The tough teams must bring out the best in Iguodala though -- he notched the second best PER of the team against the Grizzlies and currently has the second best PER against the Cavaliers. He was second only to teammate Steph Curry in the series against the Grizzlies and is only bested by David Lee (who didn't play in the first two games of the Finals) in PER against the Cavaliers.
Iguodala's shooting has been on point against the Grizzlies and Cavaliers as well. When we take a look at his eFG%, he has held the best mark for the Warriors in each series. But unlike the Grizzlies series when nearly every contributor had a 50% or higher eFG%, Iguodala is one of only three Warriors players to have an eFG% above 50% (Curry and Klay Thompson being the others).
In many aspects, including a great shooting percentage, Iguodala has shouldered a lot of responsibility in the NBA Finals and succeeded. However, it's his Game 4 performance that may have saved the Warriors' season.
Most teams only hope to contain LeBron James. And in the first three games of the series, James was racking up points at a record-setting pace. However, Iguodala's Game 4 performance against James that allowed the Warriors to tie up the series, as Iguodala was the primary defender on James, according to NBA.com and SportVU.
While the Warriors' defense as a whole did well against James (he only had 20 points), it was Iguodala that shouldered a majority of the responsibility. Whenever James touched the ball, Iguodala was there 63% of the time, limiting him to only one field goal and just 5 points. On top of the great defensive performance, Iguodala had season-high 22 points on 8-of-15 shooting after averaging just 8.7 points in the rest of the playoffs.
Thanks to Iguodala's all-around great performance, the Warriors are back in the driver's seat for the NBA Finals. They're heading back home after tying the series up and are overwhelming favorites yet again.
If they do win the NBA title, we'll be looking back at how Andre Iguodala saved the NBA Finals for the team.