On most teams, you can look at a team’s leading scorer and that is usually the team’s best player. That is simply not the case in Philly. Coming into the season, any Sixers fan knew that the only way this team could compete with the NBA’s best is to play solid defense and play team basketball. Andre Iguodala has been at the center of that exact philosophy. He can score as well as getting his teammates involved and the 8 year veteran has turned into one of the premier defenders in the NBA. His amazing athletic ability and his lockdown defense land him at #15 on BLN’s 2012 Best Athlete in Philadelphia.
In 2004 the 76ers selected Iguodala with the 9th pick out of the University of Arizona. He was heavily criticized by some college basketball pundits as they pointed to his poor 3 point shooting as proof that he would not succeed in the NBA. This wasn’t the first time he has had to deal with criticism and it certainly wasn’t his last. Iguodala had a successful but relatively quiet rookie season. He averaged 9.0 PPG and 5.7 RPG and entertained 76ers fans with high flying ally-opps from the other AI.
He had his chance to show off that dunking ability during the 2006 NBA Slam dunk contest. He started the contest off with a great but relatively average windmill dunk. The show really stopped on his 2nd dunk. He enlisted the help of Allen Iverson who bounced the ball off the back of the backboard (yes, Iverson passed the ball) and Iguodala caught the ball and dunked it while trying to avoid hitting his head on the backboard.
It brought the entire crowd off of their feet and he received a perfect score from all 5 judges! He finished the contest with another great dunk but was robbed of his title. Knicks guard Nate Robinson was allowed to attempt his final dunk over and over until he finally made it on what seemed like his 83rd try. The NBA has since instituted a “dunk clock” because of this act of highway robbery.
If you ask most NBA fans about Iguodala, they would likely say that he is a great dunker. But any 76ers fan knows that is not what he does best. Andre has become a lockdown defender and routinely guards the other team’s best outside scorer. This had gone largely unnoticed by the rest of the NBA until he was named on the NBA All-Defensive 2nd team in 2011. Earlier this season Iguodala passed Charles Barkley for 3rd on the team’s all time steals list. He only trails Sixers greats Maurice Cheeks and Allen Iverson on that list.
“We’re on a winning team now, which brings recognition to him for what he does best-that’s be an all-around player,” Coach Collins said about Iguodala. “And I think he’s the best perimeter defensive player in the NBA.”
Andre Iguodala might night put up 30 points per game but he definitely fills the stat sheet on a nightly bases. This season he is 1st in assist, 1st in steals, and 3rd in rebounds per game. He has bought into Doug Collins team first philosophy. He is only attempting 10.4 shots per game, which is his lowest average since his sophomore season. As a result his 12.4 PPG is his lowest average since that very same season. He is making due with less shots but that isn’t hurting his shooting percentage. His current FG% is his highest since the 2008-2009 season and his 39.7% 3 point percentage is a career high.
“I just take pride in being a great all-around player,” Iguodala said. “Defense has always been looked at as one of my strengths, but I just try to be a solid player on offence as well as being able to do many different things and kind of being able to be the floor general.”
Iguodala has started to receive attention from around the league with his play. In 2010 he was a member of the United States basketball team that won the Gold Medal at the FIBA World Championships. He played solid d for Coach K as well as wowing the International fans with his high flying dunks. Earlier this season, he was named to the 2012 All-Star team. He became the first 76er to make an All-Star team since the days of Allen Iverson.
Over the last few seasons, Iguodala has been the target of the majority 76ers fans frustrations. A major reason for the criticism is his amount of money he is currently making. In 2008 he signed a 6 year $60 million contract. Immediately after signing on the dotted line, he was instantly seen as the go to go on a young team.
Still today people see the contract and instantly expect Andre to be a player that he can’t be. Fans see a lottery pick who is getting paid max money and immediately label him a failure if he isn’t a star. For some reason, draft position and salary seem to have a bigger impact on a fans perception than the player’s actually talent level.
To many times we as fans try to mold our players into the perfect player. How many times did you hear that Allen Iverson needed to take fewer shots or McNabb needs to be a better leader or Desean Jackson needs to grow up? I believe we need to realize that players have their short comings and just appreciate the talent that they bring to the table.
Andre Iguodala is never going to be a player who will take over a game with his scoring ability; he won’t consistently hit 20 foot jumpers with a defender all over him. He will never be the go to scorer on a championship team. But he will play great defense, rebound when needed, share the ball and dunk with the best of them. Andre is a special player who can bring a lot to a basketball team. There are few players who can get a triple double in any given game and Andre is one of them. He is the team’s best player due to his overall talent and that helps him rank #15 on our countdown.