By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
Last night, Andre Iguodala recorded 22 points and 8 boards in his first start of the season…not the postseason, the entire season. A former All-Star and Olympian, Iguodala’s acceptance of a role off the bench this year was one of the biggest reasons the Warriors were able to pull off 67 wins in a historic regular season. Now, with the majority of his team struggling with the rugged, physical style the Cavaliers have employed in these NBA Finals, Andre has emerged as the best player on a team that needs to win 2 of 3 games to be crowned NBA champions. Saying he’s been the best player isn’t some former Sixer homerism either, his current coach is saying as much.
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 12, 2015
Andre Iguodala, NBA Finals MVP? Not as crazy as it sounds. In addition to averaging 14.8 ppg on 57.5% shooting, 5.5 rpg, and 3.0 apg, Iguodala has been the Warriors’ best bet in slowing down the man who has been to 5 straight of these series himself.
With Iguodala on the court, LeBron is shooting 35.3% from the field this series and is a -25
— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) June 12, 2015
The dude has the swagger to mock one of the greatest players in NBA history in a 4-point game in the NBA Finals! More importantly, he’s playing well enough to get away with it.
Really, this series is the culmination of all the skills Iguodala showed during his time as a Sixer. In Philadelphia, he was stuck in an antiquated offense that highlighted the worst part of his game (trying to create and make shots in isolations). Entering the league in the shadow of Allen Iverson, even having the same initials, most Philadelphia fans had come to associate stardom with scoring 30 ppg and that was simply not Iguodala’s game. He never even averaged 20, coming tantalizing close at 19.9 ppg in 2007-08, a fact those that bad-mouthed him loved to bring up as some kind of indictment of his ability.
Never mind that he was always one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, a great rebounder and passer for his position, and a guy who always put in a hard-nosed effort each and every night. It was the type of blue-collar approach that should have endeared himself to Philadelphia fans, but for whatever reason, the two parties never quite clicked. On the heels of his first All-Star appearance and a strong performance on the 2012 Olympic team, Iguodala should have been cemented in Sixers fans’ minds as one of the best players in the league. Instead, when he was traded in August of that year, reactions ranged from ‘good, we finally got rid of that bum’ to ‘maybe this is best for all parties concerned’.
Finally, with Golden State, and in this series especially, we’re seeing all the best parts of Andre’s game put to good use: sticking the best opposing player on defense, getting out in transition, making sharp off-the-ball cuts, displaying great court vision. Much to the chagrin of the casual fan in Philadelphia, he was never going to be a team’s best scorer. Stick him with a couple of the top shooters in the league though and he just might be the best player, even if only for a few games at this latter part of his career. It just makes you think what might have been.