As if an entertaining Finals series, Shaquille O’Neal’s grandiose retirement, and the looming lockout weren’t enough, the NBA can now add enticing trade rumors to its list of factors drawing in quite possibly it’s largest global audience ever. Yesterday, a trade rumor surfaced that was centered on the Clippers’ Chris Kaman and the Philadelphia 76ers’ Andre Iguodala.
Currently, the Clippers’ weakest position is small forward by a landslide. Ryan Gomes, Al-Farouq Aminu and Jamario Moon just don’t cut it the way Blake Griffin (PF), Eric Gordon (SG), Mo Williams (PG), Chris Kaman and DeAndre Jordan (C) do. Acquiring an elite small forward like Iguodala would balance out the roster, filling in the enormous gap left at the three-spot.
For those who claim Iguodala is a shooting guard, you are partially right, as he has traditionally played that position. But, shooting guard Jodie Meeks started 64 games, opening Iguodala’s potential shooting guard starts to just 18 games out of the 67 he started and played in. This past season, he actually started primarily at small forward, playing alongside a backcourt of Jrue Holiday (PG) and Meeks (SG), with Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes at the forward spot (that lineup played 776 minutes together this season, more minutes than the combined total of the next six most used units).
To make Iguodala’s value clearer, he ranked 7th in PER out of all the small forwards in the NBA. Do you want to know the six that were ahead of him? LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce, Danny Granger and Rudy Gay. Last time I checked, it is unlikely that the Clippers will be getting any of those players, especially not for Chris Kaman (Granger and Gay remain possibilities, but at a much steeper price).
If this trade were to happen the Clippers would have three top-10 PER players at their respective positions with Griffin (PF), Gordon (SG) and Iguodala (SF). How many other teams can say that? Only six (Grizzlies, Jazz, Knicks, Lakers, Mavericks, Spurs). Of those six teams, five made the playoffs, and the team that didn’t was close (Jazz). Put simply, having really good players at different positions helps you win basketball games.
PER is not the only measurement we can or should use to determine a player’s overall value. It heavily weighs offense and everyone knows, “defense wins championships.” Well, here is where Iguodala excels. He’s in a premier class of elite perimeter defenders with LeBron James, Tony Allen and at times Dwyane Wade. Need more proof? Look at the Sixers Blog, The Depressed Fan, for more proof (definitely check the link out to see the visual for Iggy’s hit list):
This is a star-driven league, and to be a true star, you have to score points. Even if you don’t play a lick of defense, if you don’t grab rebounds, hand out assists, as long as you can score 22+ PPG, you’re a star. 25+ PPG and you’re a superstar. Well, here’s the thing about scorers. They can be shut down. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens. And here’s the thing about Andre Iguodala. He’s the one who shuts them down. He is kryptonite to the wing superstars in this league.
Iguodala is the rarest of the rare in this league when it comes to defensive stoppers. Every single night, he gets the toughest perimeter assignment on the defensive end, and he sticks with that guy, like glue, for the entirety of the game, unless someone else gets hot, then he takes that guy, and shuts him down. He doesn’t get nights off. He doesn’t get to coast while the other wing takes the tougher matchup, he’s on the other team’s best wing, without fail. How often does Kobe guard LeBron? Never. That’s why the Lakers have Artest. Kobe has been riding Artest’s (and Ariza’s before him) coattails on the defensive end to All-Defensive Team honors for years. Igudoala doesn’t get a free ride. This is an important distinction when you look at the table below.
Here, we’re looking at 42 starting wings in the NBA (everyone of note on the defensive side of the ball), across five statistical defensive categories. PPP Allowed is from Synergy Sports, and it is as it sounds. The amount of points allowed by the man guarded by the player, per possession, on defense. This includes made field goals, made free throws, and turnovers by his man only. PER against is from 82games.com, and measures the overall production of the defender’s man in all of his minutes on the floor. DFR on is the team’s defensive rating (points allowed per-100-possessions) when the player is on the floor, DFR off is the team’s defensive efficiency rating when the player is on the bench and DFR differential is the difference between the two. The DFR numbers come from BasketballValue.com
I consider PPP to be the most accurate measure of a defender’s effectiveness, PER against is an opaque formula (and hasn’t been updated since the middle of January), and DFR is highly reliant on team defense (the differential can also be greatly influenced by the quality of defender who is replacing the player when he is on the bench), but it’s worthwhile to see how Iguodala ranks in each category, among starters only here.
Iguodala ranks first in PPP Allowed, second in PER against, 7th in DFR when he’s on the floor, and fifth in DFR differential among all wing starters of note. Kobe and Gerald Wallace, the two wings who made first team all defense last season, rank near the bottom of the list in most categories.
Of course, when I claim Iguodala is the best wing defender in the league, I’m not only talking about starters. I’m talking about all wings, so let’s expand the list to include the defensive specialists who play limited minutes.
When we include guys like Tony Allen and Ronnie Brewer, who play limited minutes, often against second-team players, Iguodala is still the best in the league in PPP against, and ranks 4th in PER against, 12th in DFR and 8th in DFR differential.
[H]e’s anchoring a team ranked 9th in DFR when really only one other player on the roster can even be considered average defensively – Elton Brand – and average might be a stretch. Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner will both probably wind up being very good defenders, but they aren’t there yet. Iguodala is the only fully-formed defensive piece, and the guys protecting the rim behind Iguodala are an absolute joke, yet he still shuts down everyone he faces.
Bringing in Iguodala would completely change the dynamic of the Clippers’ defense. They’d have a player who could guard three positions, shut down elite-level players, and bring leadership to the end of the floor where the Clippers lack the most focus and consistency.
Regardless of his actual skill level, just replacing Gomes and Aminu with an elite defender would do wonders for the Clippers’ D. Try getting past Gordon and Iguodala on the perimeter. Fat chance. And if you do, be prepared to have your shot blocked into the tenth row by DeAndre Jordan (or at least altered).
Offensively, Iguodala is nothing to scoff at. He would give the Clippers a very good third or fourth option, a player putting up 14-15 points despite being capable of averaging 18-20 ppg (which he did from ’06-’09). Despite being seventh on his team in usage rating, Iguodala was second on the team in points per game (14.1), trailing only former Clipper power forward Elton Brand (stats thanks to Basketball-Reference.com). He’s undoubtedly a better and more consistent option than Kaman at this point, who is just as capable of throwing up a 20 point, 10 rebound performance, as he is a 7 point, 3 rebound outing.
Once again, Iguodala is a much better offensive option than Gomes or Aminu. He doesn’t add the much needed shooting the Clippers need (career .323 percent shooter from beyond the arc), but he is a very good passer (6.3 assists per game last season), decent free-throw shooter (career .745 percent), draws fouls (career average 5.2 per game), and can create his own shot. The major offensive and defensive upgrades alone merit Iguodala’s addition to the team.
The three major drawbacks in the potential trade are how it affects the Clippers’ cap space moving forward, committing to DeAndre Jordan for the foreseeable future and the “throw-ins” the Clippers would have to add to make the deal work.
According to Hoopsworld.com, Iguodala’s deal runs through 2014, with his contract eventually becoming 13.5 million (’12), 14.7 million (’13) and 15.9 million (’14), which means that the Clippers dream of chasing big time free agents next year (Dwight Howard? Deron Williams? Chris Paul?) will be almost completely negated.
It’s a huge risk, but Iguodala has only three more years left, not five like Joe Johnson (who is he also younger than by two years). He’ll still be a very good player by the time his deal is done, and when his contract is up, the Clippers will in prime position to either keep him, or add another piece to their championship puzzle. Griffin, Gordon and Jordan will all be 26 by expiration of Iguodala’s contract, entering or soon-to-be entering their respective primes, so it’s not like the Clippers would be completely mortgaging their future, although that is a hefty contract. Can the Clippers afford Iggy? I say yes.
The second hang-up involving trading Kaman is that the Clippers are fully committing to Jordan. I agree and support that decision, but it is still a huge risk, as Jordan is still in the process of developing and is no guarantee. Plus, he could sign a very lucrative deal this summer that would cripple the Clippers’ salary situation moving forward. Although the probability of a crippling salary will surely drop after some of the NBA owners’ demands find their way into the new CBA.
The last, and most important, potential drawback is the additional players the Clips choose to add into the deal. Aminu? Bledsoe? Rhino? Ike? The Minnesota pick? Multiple picks? Honestly, this is tough predicament. With his potential, keeping Bledsoe is almost a must, so if one has to go, it should be Aminu. But Aminu himself could end up being a very good small forward in his own right. If the Clippers pulled the trigger, it could cost them down the road, as Aminu or Bledsoe or both could turn into similarly productive players that cost a lot less. Iguodala can be had, but it has to be at the right price.
Despite the drawbacks, this trade isn’t for certain, and all we can do is speculate. When it comes down to making the deal, though, Iguodala is a much better player than Kaman, and would help the Clippers out tremendously on both ends of the floor. His arrival would rid the Clippers of the previous Dunleavy era group of players (kind of), establish their core over the next few seasons (Griffin, Gordon, Iguodala, Bledsoe, Jordan), take away time from Gomes (an addition in its own right), and prove to the fans they are serious about winning games.
Honestly, it’s a no-brainer.
Follow Jovan on Twitter: @JovanBuha