Every NBA team has a go-to guy, and there’s really only room for one. And it’s not strictly who takes the last-second shot. It’s the guy who regularly gets the ball when things are getting tense in the fourth; the guy expected to calm things down when teammates are getting sloppy; the guy called upon to snuff out an opponent’s rally, or spark a rally of his own; the guy who’s not just supposed to make shots, but make the right decisions. Bottom line: Who do you want the offense to run through when everything is on the line? From #30 to #1 (one per team), these are the League’s best go-to guys…
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The best — and the worst — thing about Andre Iguodala is that we still don’t know how good he can be. While I wouldn’t go as far to say his potential is limitless, I do get the feeling that we could just be scratching the surface of A.I.2′s game heading into his sixth NBA campaign.
Last season was supposed to be the one where it all came together. With Allen Iverson firmly in the rearview, the new-school Sixers had popped their playoff cherry in ’08, had a veteran true PG in Andre Miller and a veteran true low-post threat in Elton Brand. For Iguodala, the 25-year-old being paid franchise-player money, it was an ideal situation to show what he’s got. But then Brand got hurt, the team started off slow while still trying to figure themselves out, the coach got fired, and while the Sixers got their act together in time to make the playoffs, they were bounced in the first round and left a bad taste in an embarrassing Game Six elimination loss. As for Iguodala, he had a good season (18.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.3 rpg, 1.6 spg), but didn’t quite reach the All-Star level his talent warrants.
So maybe this year is The Year. Brand is healthy, and while the PG situation is shaky following Miller’s departure, there is some sense of stability with Eddie Jordan on the bench and a clear idea of who makes up the Sixers’ core group. And Jordan plans to feature Iguodala much in the same way he featured Gilbert Arenas in Washington; meaning A.I.2 has every chance in the world to move up to the NBA’s elite class.
They keyword with Iguodala is “versatility.” He is a legit 20-5-5-2 kind of player, durable (missing only six games his entire career), solid on both ends of the floor, and developing as a reliable go-to guy who can go shot-for-shot with anyone in the game’s most important moments.
Last season Iguodala knocked down a memorable game-winner against the Lakers at Staples, and another against the Magic in Game 1 of their series. Both plays exhibited a small piece of why the Sixers like Iguodala as their centerpiece. Against L.A., Iguodala was 0-for-6 beyond the arc before his last shot, when he boldly stepped up and drained a three in Trevor Ariza‘s eye when he could have gone for a two and the tie. Said interim coach Tony DiLeo afterwards: “We cleared it out for Andre and gave him the option. He could have drove to the basket, he could pitch for a three, but he said coming out, ‘I’m going to win the game.’ So he knew what he was going to do, and he did it.”
Against Orlando, Iguodala had missed a huge pair of free throws late in the fourth that would’ve given Philly the lead, but came back on the Sixers’ final play like it never happened and hit a step-back J for the win. (Just like an NFL cornerback, having selective short-term memory is a necessary trait for an NBA finisher.) More than just making a couple of jumpers, Iguodala showed that he wants those decisive moments to be in his hands.
The biggest weakness in Iguodala’s game is his jumper. He hit just 30.7% from three last season, 12.5% beyond the arc in “clutch time,” and on two-point jumpers his 34% was one of the League’s worst. But when the game is on the line, his percentages seem to go out the window and his confidence rises.
Not that he’s a jacker, though. Iguodala is a finisher (League-high 72.1% on “inside shots”) and a playmaker, and with solid scorers around him, a little deference in the right spots isn’t a bad thing. With another year of age and experience he’ll better learn when to make the right call, but the way things are going, Philly has a promising future with Iguodala in charge.
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