Making the Most of Andre Iguodala
I wrote it as clear as you heard: Bethlehem Shoals is sick of rumors. I wouldn't refer to myself in the third-person unless I really wanted to call attention to my own folly. So there's your disclaimer on this: I LIE.
However, the future of Andre Iguodala is about more than who goes where and for what. Comparing Andre Iguodala to Lamar Odom is misleading; besides being a more unique player, Odom is at once spacier and in theory, more likely to serve as a nervous center of a team. A weird one, indeed, but wasn't that the premise behind that rad Odom/Dwayne Wade/Caron Butler Heat team? Why does Shaquille O'Neal ruin all the interesting teams?
As we've seen from Odom's post-Heat career, though, he's either most comfortable, or at least has no problem with, taking a secondary role. In fact, with the Lakers, Odom's nearly an afterthought.
Iguodala has much to recommend him: stellar defense, great feel for the game, strong passing and rebounding, world-class athleticism, superb slashing, and the willingness to develop his outside shot. And yet Iggy, like Odom, might be about to surrender his place on pedestal.
You have to blame this as much on the Sixers as Iguodala. By not seeing a player for who he is, Philly set themselves up for disappointment and put Iguodala in a perpetually awkward position.
Back when the Sixers drafted Iguodala, there were concerns that he wasn't assertive enough. Then that was all blamed on Allen Iverson, who was supposedly holding AI2 back. He got a sizable extension based not on his potential to produce, but to realize he was the most important player on the team. Andre Miller was the engine behind that team's resurgence, yet Iguodala was still thought to be the main piece. The signing of Elton Brand could have given Iguodala the cushion he needed to carry the team without going against his personality. But Brand's been a disappointment, and now the roster is crowded with guys like Louis Williams and Thaddeus Young who, while not nearly Iguodala's equal, can play a similar role for this middling team.
If the rumor gods died today, Iguodala would be looking at possible destinations of either Cleveland or Houston, both of which mark the end of his long, torturous superstar audition, albeit in different ways.
To some extent, saying Iguodala can't be top dawg on the Cavaliers is a non-statement. No one is as good as LeBron James; were to ever see a James/Dwyane Wade combo, Wade would have the ball in his hands more, but only because James saw it was the best course of action. Yet the Cavs wouldn't be adding Iguodala in a vacuum, which is part of why they're an elite team in this league. This team has a pretty well-developed flow to it, albeit one that's sometimes glitched up by injuries, and at very least there's Mo Williams, and the threat of Shaq, as highly strategic secondary options.
While Iguodala can create his own shot and do crazy things in the lane, with Cleveland he'd be expected to fit into a program. When a team's other big target is supposedly Antawn Jamison, the poster child for low-key, malleable output, you know they're not going after Iguodala for his shock and awe factor alone.
The Houston Rockets, another team said to covet Iguodala, have an agenda of their own in mind. The team misses Tracy McGrady -- or at least the healthy T-Mac that did more than take bad shots and go to the lane with a limp. The first hints we got of what a wholly original Daryl Morey/Rick Adelman Rockets might look like came in 2007, when the team continued its win streak even after Yao went down. McGrady both provided scoring punch and stay involved in the flow of the offense. Imagine Iguodala -- younger, even more willing to share the ball, and without a bit of gunner in him -- in that slot. If that balanced team wants something resembling a focal point on the perimeter, and Iguodala doesn't want to be the man in a traditional sense, this could be a near-ideal match.
It's worth noting, too, that Iguodala in Houston would allow the haywire Trevor Ariza to go back to the role that made him famous, pairing with Shane Battier to make a case for both versatility and redundancy as key to forward-thinking basketball.
Again, I raise these possibilities not because I like to bet on what may be, but because Andre Iguodala is at a crucial juncture in his career. He's been pigeonholed, due to certain facets of his game, context, and the contract he signed (can you blame him for that?), as your typical athletic swingman. However, if he accepts a demotion of sorts -- one he himself might be willing to -- we'll get to see that Andre Iguodala is in fact a far more complex, and valuable, player. In this case, we're being kept from realizing that Iguodala offers more because he's being typecast as a false superstar. One step back, two forward.