“Andre Iguodala isn’t a shooting guard.”
“Andre Iguodala can’t play shooting guard.”
“The Sixers should sign and trade Andre Iguodala for a ‘real’ shooting guard.”
Those have been some of the emphatic statements that littered blogs, forums and even the general media before the Elton Brand signing and now after the elation of having a stud power forward in Philly has subsided a bit. The “what to do with Andre Iguodala topic” has been, without question, the hottest debate among Philadelphia 76ers fans this summer.
So I decided to do a little homework, mix it with some basketball common sense and subjectivity and tackle this debate head on. Grab your beverage of choice for this one!
Different Types of Shooting Guards (aka Wing Players)
“Andre Iguodala isn’t a shooting guard.” Says who? The little “SF” next to his name in the boxscore? Shooting guard and small forward are the most interchangeable positions in basketball in terms of skill set in my opinion. That is why the term “wing player” exist to classify the two positions as a whole. Ed Stefanski buys into this train of thought as well.
With that said there are different types of wing players who bring a certain style of play to the position. This is heavily weighted toward their offensive specialty.
- Catch-and-shoot guy – Typically called a shooter. A guy who uses screens well to get open looks. Can knock down 3-pointers at a high rate and stretches the defense. The elite guys in this group are also very good mid-range jump shooters as well. Capable of taking one or two dribbles to create space for jumpers around invisible arc, foul line extended. Example: Reggie Miller/Ray Allen/Rip Hamilton
- Slasher - This guy loves to attack the rim and score inside around the basket. The best thing about this player is they get to the line at an alarming rate, which is a very efficient way to score. The elite guys in this group learn when taking the ball all the way to the hole isn’t the smartest option and develop a nice floater or short jump shot. The added bonus of this type of player compared to the catch-and-shoot guy is their ability to create shots for teammates. This player is typically not a strong 3-point shooter. Example: Dwyane Wade/Allen Iverson/Monta Ellis
- Defensive stopper – Because the wing position has the most dynamic scorers this class of player has developed out of need. They defend the best perimeter player on the opposing team, and that is their primary role. In many cases this guy is a spot-up jump shooter (what I like to call a passive scorer) on the offensive end. Why? Imagine having to chase Rip Hamilton and D. Wade around all game, then turn around on the offensive end and have to run off the same number of screens to get open for shots. Not going to find to many guys capable of doing that at a high level. Example: Bruce Bowen/Raja Bell
- Mr. Do It All - Can score in every way possible; catch-and-shoot, knock down threes, penetrate and score at the rim, post up and create and make shots off the dribble. This player can just as easily distribute the rock and is also a strong defender. Example: Michael Jordan/Kobe Bryant
With all things nothing is absolute. Players can fit into more than one category at different times but as a whole these categories accurately cover the different types of wing players.
So where does Andre Iguodala fit? Well, when he first entered the league he was without question a defensive stopper with signs of a slasher’s scoring ability. As his role increased he has drifted more into the slasher group as that is where is skill set is strongest. He can get to the basket and finish strong. He is also a decent passer off the dribble as well. Sadly, his defensive stopper tendencies have declined with the added demand on him to be an active scorer.
I blame both Iguodala and the fan’s biases for the belief that he isn’t a shooting guard and is incapable of shifting to that position full-time.
Iguodala does not play to his strengths (slashing and scoring around the basket) enough. He often settles for jump shots which lowers his overall scoring efficiency. This is the biggest knock on his game right now. If he penetrated more he would give himself 3 ways to help the team win: score, assist on a score and increase his free throw attempts. When he settles for jumpers the only way he can help is by making shots. Not being a great shooter makes that a losing proposition.
Many people seemed to have a bias that the ideal shooting guard should be a true shooter. I don’t know why. Maybe because the name of the position has “shooting” in it! Add the fact that they often see Iguodala shooting perimeter shots and missing, and I can see why they don’t like the idea of him as the Sixers’ shooting guard. If he cut down on his weak pull up jumper, at least until he improves his consistency with it, and continued to put pressure on the defense by driving, I don’t think people would have as much issue with him. His FG% (the stat casual fans pay attention to) will go up along with his points scored from the line.
That leads us to a good approach for evaluating what makes a good shooting guard.
How to Evaluate Shooting Guards
There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel here. Scouts, inc has put together a good 7-point grading system for evaluating shooting guards.
- Size and Strength
- Ball-handling and Passing
- Defensive Toughness
- Mental Toughness
I’m not going to regurgitate ESPN.com’s content, you can read their full definitions and write-up at the link above if you want to. What I will do is give you statistical measures to use when evaluating Iguodala or any wing player against some of those criteria.
- Shooting percentage from the field
- Offensive rebounding
- Getting to the line – and making them
I have compiled the ’07-’08 season stats of 66 wing players. Any rankings mentioned in the post will be against that list. It’s certainly not perfect but it should be good enough to get the job done. To see the list of players click here. *Gilbert Arenas stats are from the ’06-’07 season.
Scoring: Quantity, Efficiency and Versatility
Points per game is too simple a stat to use because it says nothing about scoring efficiency and is impossible to use in comparing players. Instead we’ll look at scoring and all stats on a per minute basis.
Andre Iguodala scores 0.5 points per minute and 20.1 points per 40 minutes. That ranks 23rd among the 66 wing players on my list. To give you an idea how he compared to starters; Iguodala ranks 18th among guys that started 75% or more games (29 total).
Iguodala isn’t a high volume scorer. He rarely is going to drop 30, and it’s even less likely he would explode to score 40 plus. But he will consistently get you 18-22 points every game making him a nice second scoring option.
What about scoring efficiency? I like to look at points-per-shot (PPS) to measure this. It tells me how effectively a player is using his shot attempts. Iguodala has a 0.99 PPS, ranking 35th. Compared to other starters he is middle of the pack at 15th. Notable players he is ahead of: Allen Iverson, Michael Redd, Vince Carter, Joe Johnson, Gilbert Arenas, Tracy McGrady and Brandon Roy.
What about scoring versatility? Andre Iguodala excels in one of the 4 factors, which is getting to the line. He got to the line 6.2 times per 40 minutes, ranking 9th (tied with Louis Williams). When Iguodala is driving the ball he is clearly at his best. Scoring at the basket, getting fouled and creating shots for his teammates. If we see improvement with his three-point shooting and shot off the dribble, he will become a much more dynamic and difficult-to-defend scoring threat. Not because he is hitting long range shots but because now you have to respect it, and that should open up more driving lanes.
One area he desperately needs to improve is his shot clock usage. He needs to make quicker, sharper decisions on offense. The other area I’d like to see Iguodala improve and go to more is the post up. There should be more opportunities, size and strength advantages for him to exploit at the shooting guard position.
From a scoring perspective Is Andre Iguodala good enough to be the Sixers’ starting shooting guard? As a #1 offensive weapon obviously not, but with the addition of Brand I say would yes.
Again the boxscore stat: FG% doesn’t do an accurate job of evaluating a player’s shooting ability and efficiency. Instead we look at effective FG percentage (eFG%) which takes 3-pointers into account and is the best way to look at shooting from the floor. Then we look at true shooting percentage (TS%) which considers both 3-pointers and free throws and is a good measure of a player’s overall shooting ability.
Andre Iguodala ranks a meager 35th in eFG% at 49.5% (tied with Michael Redd). BUT, he ranks 15th among guys who started 75% or more of their games. Ahead of the likes of: Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, Gilbert Arenas, Brandon Roy and Tracy McGrady.
We all know about Iguodala’s weak 3-point shooting. AI2 shot 32.9% from three last year, good for 52nd among similar wing players and 22nd in the starters group. The real problem with that is the attempts. It’s one thing to be a mediocre 3-point shooter; it’s an entirely bigger issue to be a poor shooter who jacks up as many attempts as Iguodala does (3.8/40M). Of the 14 players that shoot worse than Iguodala from beyond the arc only five shoot more attempts per 40-minutes. It’s quite simple: shoot better, or shoot less. Make a conscious decision what type of offensive player you are going to be, and stick with it. Perfect examples: Monta Ellis and Flash. They shoot 23.1% and 28.6% from three respectively, but only take 0.7 and 1.6 attempts per forty minutes. I don’t think anyone has much problem with them as starting shooting guards.
What about free throw and overall shooting? Iguodala had a down year shooting the ball from the line at 72.1%, good for 60th. But even his career number 76.5% would only move him to 42nd on the list. He needs to shoot the way he did during the 2007 season (82%), especially since he gets to the line so often. Iguodala does shoot free throws better in late game, clutch situations (more on this below), but the team won’t be in those situation if he doesn’t focus on making them throughout the entire game (65% in the first quarter from the line).
As for his TS% he ranks 42nd overall at 54.3% and 20th among starters. That number simply is not good enough for me. Luckily I think he can improve there with better shot selection and converting more free throws during the first three quarters of games.
Is Andre Iguodala an adequate enough shooter to play shooting guard? Not quite yet, and if you buy into Dean Oliver’s 4 factors which says shooting from the field is the most important factor in team success, Iguodala’s inadequacy is a real concern. But as I mentioned above does he really HAVE to be a strong perimeter shooter in order to be successful? As a four-year player with a strong work ethic and admitted desire to improve his shooting, I think he will improve his shooting a bit. I think he can get smarter and therefore improve his efficiency, without necessarily become a knock-down perimeter shooter. But will he improve it quickly enough to take advantage of Sixers’ window of opportunity?
Size, Strength and Athleticism
In terms of size Iguodala’s measurements are ideal for a shooting guard. 6′ 7″ tall in shoes, 6’11″ wingspan and a 8′ 9.5″ standing reach. He weighs in the 210 area. You can see his strength when he is matched up with smaller, thinner guards. He often overpowers them, something he would have more opportunity to do if he was matched up with shooting guards rather than small forwards.
I am not even going to waste my time talking about his athleticism. Is there really any question regarding Andre Iguodala in these areas? I think not.
Ball-handling and Passing (aka Taking Care of the Rock)
From a technical standpoint Andre Iguodala is solid passer. He has his fair share of bad passes, but on the whole he isn’t killing the team in that regard. But how does Iguodala fair in terms of taking care of the ball overall, a key factor in winning games? To measure this I look at turnover ratio (TOV%), which tells you how often a player turns the ball over per 100 possessions. Andre Iguodala’s TOV% is 10.2, which ranks 47th overall. Even worse is how he stacks up against other starting-caliber players at the position. He ranks 25th, which would make him one of the worst starting shooting guards in this area. The only top-tier guards worse than him are Manu Ginobili and Dwyane Wade. I thought people said Andre Iguodala was a good decision maker?
What about more common assist and turnover stats?
- 2.6 turnovers per 40-minutes – 39th overall and 21st among starters
- 4.8 assist per 40-minutes – 16th overall and 11th among starters
- 1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio – 27th overall and 13th among starters
Ball-handling is rather subjective. You can only really know how good a player’s handle is by watching the games. How well he creates space for shots or penetrates. How well he handles pressure and navigates through traffic. I think Andre Iguodala’s handle is decent, yet under utilized. Again, when he settles for jumpers he doesn’t maximize what he can do with his ball-handling. We all agree he can get better shots going to the basket. But, I think he can combine his handle, size and strength to drive into defenders around the foul line, then stop and pop. Iverson does it all the time, and he isn’t nearly as big and strong as Iguodala. Hopefully this is something he is adding to his offensive arsenal this summer.
Good thing Iguodala is a decent and willing passer otherwise he would be a complete liability in terms of protecting the ball. This is a perfect example of why he isn’t a #1 player. Big-time players have the ball A LOT and are asked to score as well as make things happen for teammates. You can’t be a turnover machine when you’re the man with the rock all the time. This an area we can only hope will improve with more experience and studying game film.
Andre Iguodala is a good defender. He has very good size, wingspan and athleticism to be great perimeter defender. When he first came into the league that was his niche, and he performed extremely well. As his offensive responsibilities have increased, it’s my opinion that his defense has suffered to a degree. He still does a good job of playing passing lanes and getting steals. Iguodala averaged 2.1 steals per 40 ranking 6th overall and 2nd among starters. But what I have an issue with is the effort on a consistent basis. You see more and more defensive plays taken off. Not fighting through screens and not staying with a play, reaching from behind when he gets beat. With his athleticism he could be a great recovery defender as well as weak side defender, getting more blocks and backside rebounds ala LeBron James.
With that said this area is probably the least of my worries. With Brand taking more of the scoring load off AI2′s shoulders, I expect him to have more energy to commit on the defensive end. This will be even more vital now that D. Wade looks to be 100% again and with Mickael Pietrus joining Orlando.
NOTE: Why I didn’t incorporate a stat such as individual defensive rating? I just don’t think you can accurately quantify individual defense with a single stat because so many positive behaviors and actions are not tracked statistically. There are no stats for shots contested, strong pick-and-roll or weak side help defense for example. The most accessible individual defensive stat, DRtg, rewards good defenders on strong defensive teams. So a player like Raja Bell is undervalued, and a guy like Manu Ginobili is overvalued for example.
Does Andre Iguodala have the mental toughness and willingness to take big shots? Sure, in fact his shooting is actually better in clutch situations as defined by 82.games.com (4th quarter or overtime, with less than 5-minutes to play and neither team ahead by more than 5 points). Iguodala’s clutch stats vs. his overall numbers…
- Overall eFG%: Clutch – 52.3% / Overall – 49.5%
- Jump shot eFG%: Clutch – 47.8% / Overall – 41.9%
- Free Throw %: Clutch – 85.5% / Overall – 72.1%
Surprising? The reason lies in his style of play. During early stages of games he settles far too much for jumpers (72% of his shots) compared to end game situations when he plays to his strength and drives the ball much more (68% of shots are jumpers). This is really shown in his free throw shooting. His overall FTA per 48 minutes is 7.5 and his foul drawing is at 13.9%. During crunch time he FTA per 48 minutes is 18.8 and his foul drawing is at 20.3%. That is immensly significant and the reason I am frustrated he doesn’t play this way all game.
My only concern with his mental toughness is when things aren’t going well (Detroit playoff series). At times Iguodala tends to either sulk or compound the problem by making bad decisions. Again, this is an area I hope will improve with added experience and the addition of Elton Brand.
One of the big reasons I like Iguodala at the shooting guard position is the advantage I think the Sixers gain rebounding the ball as well as an increase in overall size. Willie Green is not a good rebounder whereas Iguodala brings the benefits of having a small forward-type player and rebounder at the two. As most people should know stats need to be adjusted based on position so the assumption is that Iguodala will continue to rebound the ball as well as he did as small forward. He averaged 5.5 boards per 40 which ranks 19th overall and 10th among starters.
- PER: 19.05 – 15th overall and 8th among starters
- WS/M: 0.194 – 16th overall and 9th among starters
All that really says to me is if Andre Iguodala was the starting shooting guard for the Sixers, he would be in the top third in the NBA. That is promising considering his age and tenure in the league. I don’t think Iguodala has peaked yet, and his future improvement will be more dependent on his decision making and understanding and application of his strengths. I say that because I have no concern whatsoever about his work ethic.
Andre Iguodala vs. Michael Redd
Quickly lets take a look at a comparison of the player I’ve heard many people suggesting in sign-and-trade proposals. (Iguodala’s stats are first, Redd’s are second)
- Age: 24 / 29
- PP/40M: 20.1 / 24.2
- PPS: 0.99 / 0.99
- FGA/40M: 15.7 / 18.4
- FTA/40M: 6.2 / 7.3
- 3-pt%: 32.9% / 36.3%
- FT%: 72.1% / 82%
- eFG%: 49.5% / 49.5%
- TS%: 54.3 / 55.9
Ball-handling and Passing
- AST/40M: 4.8 / 3.7
- TO/40M: 2.6 / 2.7
- TOV%: 10.2 / 9.6
- AST/TO Ratio: 1.8 / 1.4
Rebounding and Defense
- REB/40M: 5.5 / 4.6
- STLS/40M: 2.1 / 1.0
- BLK/40M: 0.6 / 0.4
- eFG%: 52.3% / 45.1%
- FT%: 85.5% / 83.3%
- PER: 19.05 / 18.9
- WS/M: 0.194 / 0.151
You be the judge.
If Not Andre Iguodala, Then Who?
Maybe the best argument for Andre Iguodala at the shooting guard is the 5-man starting unit that would create with the addition of Elton Brand. The line-up of Dalembert, Brand, Young, Iguodala and Miller is the best unit the Sixers have statistically and would be one of the best in the entire NBA.
Willie Green ranks…
- 47th in PER
- 65th in WS/M
- 51st in points-per-shot
- 50th in eFG%
- 56th in TS%.
- 12th in FGA/40M (this is alarming!)
- 63rd in 3-point%
- 42nd in FT%
- 39th in FTA/40M
- 61st in REB/40M
- 43rd in AST/40M
- 46th in STLS/40M
- 19th in BLKS/40M
- 33rd in TOV/40M
- 31st in TOV%
- 49th in AST/TOV Ratio
To say the least Willie Green shouldn’t be starting or playing 26MPG, especially considering he shoots worse than Iguodala and Louis Williams from three and only slightly better than Lou from the field (eFG%: 46.5. vs. 46.1%).
I think there is little question Iguodala should play the shooting guard for the Sixers given their current personnel. I also think he is capable of playing the position successfully.
Alternatives? I would lean towards moving Iguodala back to small forward and starting Louis Williams or Kareem Rush at the shooting guard if Thaddeus Young regresses and isn’t ready to handle the SF position before I go back to Willie Green. Or with the addition of Donyell Marshall see if he can handle the starting small forward duties (with limited minutes) and keep Iguodala at the two. That last line-up would add a three-point threat and potentially give the Sixers the best rebounding starting unit in the entire league.
You have a lot of information and my opinion. What’s yours?
@TT32 and anyone else who asked for this post – I hope after reading this you got what you were waiting for and see why it took me so long to get it done.