In basketball, being a go-to guy isn’t always about who takes the last-second shot. It’s the guy who regularly gets the basketball when things are getting tense in the fourth quarter; the guy expected to calm things down when teammates are getting antsy; 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?
Using the rationale that even the most balanced team has one identifiable if-all-else-fails leader that they look to in crunch time, I’ve picked one player per squad for a final list of 30. Again, ONE PLAYER PER TEAM…
ANDRE IGUODALA, Philadelphia 76ers
What started out as a breakout, image-changing summer for Iguodala in the end only reinforced what a growing number of Sixers’ observers have been saying for years: Iguodala is not cut out to be the No. 1 option on a good team.
In the early stages of his run with Team USA, Iguodala was arguably the second-best player on the squad, making plays on defense and complementing Kevin Durant‘s buckets-centric offense with an all-over-the-court presence that resulted in flashy dunks, transition assists, and some hot shooting in the team’s inter-squad scrimmages. But by the time Team USA went to Turkey for the World Championship, Iguodala had become a non-factor on offense, marked by some ugly bricks and airballs behind the shorter international three-point arc, and he only seemed to staye on the court due to his outstanding defense. He wasn’t bad — basketball is a two-way game, after all — but at best he was a solid role player. Which is why Philly fans can’t wrap their heads around the fact that Iguodala is paid ($56 million through 2014) like a marquee franchise superstar.
Still, he’s the best the Sixers have in terms of a go-to player. Last season, the 26-year-old wing averaged 17.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game, maintaining his status as one of the most versatile players in the League. When games were on the line, however, Iguodala left a lot to be desired. According to 82games.com, Iguodala scored 29.1 points per 48 minutes of “clutch time” — 4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes to play, 5-point margin or less — equal to the respective outputs of Carlos Boozer and Michael Beasley. On his own team, Lou Williams (36.8 pts) was more productive in the clutch. Iguodala shot 36 percent from the floor and 28 percent from three-point range in crunch time, and made just 66 percent of his free throws. In a related story, the Sixers finished 27-55 and 14 games out of playoff position.
Plain and simple, Iguodala is not a scorer by nature, but he is often put in positions where Philly needs him to score. It seems everybody had it right when Iguodala was compared to Scottie Pippen coming out of college, except Pippen did prove he could be The Man on a good team. Iguodala can come up with big rebounds, steals and other opportunistic plays in close games, but his moments of hitting dagger shots and carrying the Sixers offensively are not routine. In maybe his best all-around performance of last season, Iguodala posted 33 points, eight boards, 11 assists and five steals in an April game against the Raptors in which the Sixers rallied from a 17-point deficit in the third quarter to force overtime. Philly still lost.
“I think to be one of the elite players you have to have that confidence in yourself no matter what situation, whether you are making shots or not,” Iguodala said after he missed a three that would have tied it at the end.
Iguodala has confidence. He believes he’s the man. In Allen Iverson‘s first game back with the Sixers last season, I remember Iguodala seemingly on a mission to nip in the bud any doubt that Iverson would take his spot as the go-to guy.
At the same time, there’s a reason there was such a gap between this entry and the last Go-To Guys entry (Yao Ming, #26). With the Carmelo Anthony trade rumors having spread to include the Sixers, I wasn’t sure if Iguodala would even be in Philly, or in what role. If he was kept and ‘Melo brought in, obviously Iguodala becomes the No. 2 option. If he was shipped to Denver so Philly could get ‘Melo, he becomes the No. 2 behind Chauncey Billups. The fact that there aren’t too many teams where Iguodala would be the clear-cut No. 1 go-to guy is reason enough to warrant his current spot on this list.
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