The Golden State Warriors' addition of veteran wing Andre Iguodala this offseason figures to make them a significantly more versatile and defensively capable squad. Iguodala has a deserved reputation as one of the best wing defenders of his generation, a player possessed of virtually every skill necessary to lock down and frustrate the best scorers in the league at several different positions. He's capable of providing a master class in the art of defense. Although Iguodala never seemed right for the role of top offensive option in his years with the Philadelphia 76ers, he's elite at one end of the floor.
Defensive excellence still gets less attention than that of the offensive variety, though, and Iguodala isn't a regular topic of conversation in mainstream basketball circles. He's noticed, apparently, because he said he deserves more credit for his abilities at a media availability at the Warriors' Oakland practice facility on Wednesday. From Antonio Gonzalez of The Associated Press:
"I don't think I got enough credit for what I bring to certain teams, especially last year with the record that we had, breaking the franchise record for wins and how we kind of kept everything together and pulled off a great season," Iguodala said. "Just really continue to build with this team as well. Not just for one year but do it for multiple years, keep making runs at everyone's ultimate goal, which is a championship."
And here's more from Ethan Sherwood Strauss of TrueHoop (emphasis his):
How much credit do you deserve for the defensive leap that Denver took last season?
I would say I had a lot to do with it, because I had a lot of responsibility, especially in the pick-and-roll coverage on the weak side and having to guard two guys, the diver and the 3-point shooter. Which is ... it’s damned near impossible. I see a lot of teams lose games off that.
The worthiness of Iguodala's argument depends largely on what kind of attention he's referring to. As his explanation to Strauss proves, appreciating the exact character of Iguodala's defensive acumen requires knowing a great deal about each player's responsibilities on any given play. If Iguodala wants mainstream coverage of his importance, then he better hope that the popular discourse gets significantly more detail-focused. He shouldn't hold his breath waiting for that development.
On the other hand, Iguodala does get a fair amount of coverage from media outlets interested in advanced metrics and the granular details of the game. They can tell you that the Denver Nuggets jumped from 20th to 11th in defensive efficiency after adding Iguodala last season, or that he really does cover multiple aspects of one play with fascinating and incredibly rare ability. He is just as good at defense as he says he is, and deserves attention for it.
But the kind of attention Iguodala presumably wants — the sort that earns player-specific segments on TV studio shows or repeat appearances on highlight shows — is usually reserved for the more viscerally impressive players in the NBA. That group includes ball-dominating scorers, elite passers, shot blockers, and others who exert their influence on the game in pretty obvious and loud ways. By comparison, Iguodala is a master of subtleties.
We can bemoan this state of affairs, if we like, and feel good about ourselves for noticing something less superficial than the norm. However, it's also possible that Iguodala doesn't win the hearts of a broader group of basketball observers simply because they're not drawn to the same intricacies as are diehards. If the goal is to figure out who has the greatest impact on a game, then Iguodala should get more attention. Yet, if that attention corresponds in some way to who gets the most people excited to watch a game, then Iguodala probably gets the right amount of it. He's a very good player not commonly considered a star, in part because he affects outcomes in ways best appreciated by people who already know his game very well. In other words, Iguodala gets the amount of attention he does because it would take too much effort to convince the vast majority of TV viewers that he's worth it. The NBA is never only concerned with basketball as it plays out on the court, and that's probably for the best.
Here's the full video of Iguodala's media session, if you'd like to take a look, courtesy of WarriorsTV: