Why the Andre Iguodala trade doesn’t make Denver better: Part I

Editor’s note: I do not enjoy making reason of chaos. As you may have noticed, it’s been nearly two months since my last post. I’m still writing daily  (as has been the case for well over a year now), however, it has become even more difficult to figure out where to take this blog as I unravel and digest everything the Denver Nuggets organization does on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. I apologize for the inconsistencies of my posting. 

This is part I of a series (of parentheses and em-dashes–this is a joke that will make sense later, I assure you) in which I examine why the Andre Iguodala trade doesn’t make Denver better. 

If you have been following me on Twitter at all for the past six months, you would be well aware that I am not in very much support of Denver’s roster moves. If you had read any parts of my previous two posts, you would find the same opinion throughout.

They traded a disgruntled “star” in Carmelo Anthony because each had had enough of the other. They included Chauncey Billups in the deal to maximize return trade value, even though he clearly wanted Denver his final basketball destination (which wouldn’t mean much if it were any other player, except that Denver is Chauncey’s home and he’s kind of a local legend and still incredibly productive to boot) and the Nuggets thought an as-yet untested and very undersized Ty Lawson (more on Lawson’s place in history in future posts) was ready to lead them into the future.

The very next season they re-signed Nene Hilario, Arron Afflalo, and Danilo Gallinari to long-term deals. Injuries set in during the months of February and March (as they typically do in every season, but, even more-so in a lockout-shortened slate where guys are playing as many as five games in six nights) and Denver panicked, trading Hilario for league laughingstock, JaVale McGee. (As an aside, unless there is acute attention paid to minute allocation during the season such as that employed by San Antonio with aging Hall-of-Famer Tim Duncan, injuries will pileup – especially with players as seemingly fragile as Nene.)

After signing his new contract last December, Nene had indicated in every available media outlet that he, like Billups, wanted Denver to be his first and last stop in the NBA – despite seeing teammate Carmelo Anthony make nearly twice the money for half the work most of his career, despite being forced to play nearly a full decade out of position, despite never being allowed to flourish due to playing out of position, despite playing with a ball-stopper in Anthony and an unconscionable chucker in J.R. Smith, despite playing alongside head-cases Kenyon Martin and Smith for most of his career, and despite being the very model of consistency and professionalism on and off the court. Denver management, feeling no loyalty to either Nene or Billups after living through one of the most tumultuous decades any NBA city has ever experienced, moved them in trades with very little feeling or remorse or nearly the return such players should garner. It is business, after all. Then, following yet another unsuccessful NBA Draft in June (because, let’s face it, the Nuggets haven’t drafted well since Kiki Vandeweghe took Jameer Nelson in 2004) where they acquired France’s relatively unknown Evan Fournier and another project in Baylor’s Quincy Miller, the Nuggets saw every other team in the Western Conference improve. Feeling a playoff berth next season slowly slipping through their fingertips, they panicked again, and traded the since re-signed Afflalo for Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala. Why do I feel they panicked, you ask?

  1. There is a very clear track record for doing so.
  2. They were never once involved in the Dwight Howard talks until the final days when major players (Orlando, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia) needed a fourth team to take Andre Iguodala.
  3. The league’s worst-kept secret is Denver’s lust for Iguodala – going at least as far back as two years ago when they were fielding offers for Carmelo Anthony. Every trade proposal they considered in the early-stages of talks with New Jersey revolved around Iguodala coming to the Nuggets. Now, fast-forward two years: The Lakers, Magic, and especially the Sixers knew of Denver’s infatuation with Iggy and took advantage by beautifully orchestrating a four-team deal involving the newly-minted gold medalist. I know Sixers President Rod Thorn and general manager Ed Stefanski knew about the Nuggets’ yearning for Iguodala (Thorn was in his first days on the job when Denver made overtures for the small forward in the Carmelo swap), and by extension, so did both Orlando and Los Angeles.
  4. No one necessarily had use for Iguodala’s services, least of all Orlando. Because what utility could the Magic have for a 28-going-on-29 year-old swingman who can’t score and relies entirely on his athleticism for success? Remember, Rob Hennigan was tutored in the San Antonio Spurs organization. Orlando is in the midst of a full rebuild. Acquiring a nearly-30 year old NBA veteran ‘tweener’ who’s on the decline to anchor their team is foolhardy. And God knows Los Angeles has enough help on the wing. Denver was the only team that would take Iguodala.
  5. The Nuggets didn’t put enough thought into the move itself because they weren’t involved until the final stages of talks – something that speaks very loudly to a franchise getting hoodwinked. For this reason and those mentioned above, Denver gave up its best remaining player and elite NBA shooting guard, Arron Afflalo.

I said last January on Twitter – much to the dismay of all my followers – that there were only four players I’d take over Arron Afflalo as my starting shooting guard. They were: James Harden, Eric Gordon, Kevin Martin, and Monta Ellis. Kobe Bryant wasn’t included. Dwyane Wade wasn’t, either (people were especially steamed about Wade’s exclusion). If I had to do that list over again today it would include James Harden. And end with James Harden. Klay Thompson will be on this list by the time the New Year rolls around, I have no doubt. However, I do not include Andre Iguodala in the field of potential shooting guards for one reason: He can’t shoot. From anywhere (outside of last year’s near-40% showing from behind the arc). Having the ability to shoot is kind of in the job description for a shooting guard. And for this reason, he has been used as point-forward out of the small forward position for the majority of his career. A point forward position I (wrongfully) assumed Denver was grooming Danilo Gallinari to take over. After all, the point forward is actually what pre-draft scouting reports listed him as coming out of Italy in 2008. As if drafting France’s Evan Fournier wasn’t a curious enough choice given he’s yet another versatile wing best used as a point-forward because he cannot shoot, Denver makes a trade for one more?

I mean, what does Denver have against shooters? (More on a player they missed in Summer League who could have easily made their roster but was ignored in future posts).

With this wealth of information as pretext, I will use my ensuing posts as explanation into the incalculable number of ways this was a bad trade for Denver, how much it frighteningly resembles the Nuggets’ last trade with Philly for another ‘A.I.’, and how they’re building a Fantasy Basketball Team instead of a real one. I assure you all of  this will be thoroughly backed-up by quantitative evidence. I promise.

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About J.R.
I have been watching basketball for over twenty years. I like to think I've learned a thing or two in that time. Truth is, I've learned just one thing: I love this game.

9 Responses to Why the Andre Iguodala trade doesn’t make Denver better: Part I

  1. Pingback: In which I dispute Part 1 of Smooth Operatah’s critique of the Iguodala trade | The Nuggets Den

  2. Nuggklehead says:

    So you like Nene and Afflalo and try to use hindsight to bash an NBA team. Nothing to see here …

    • Steven Toll says:

      Why is Iguodala on the decline? Would you really take Billups > Lawson right now? Denver drafted Faried last year which is worth more than I care to explain. Afflalo isn’t very good on defense, and Al Harrington is a net negative. Iggy is a top 10ish player over the course of the season, how did Denver get worse?

      Forgive me for not reading part 2 and 3 because I don’t want my eyes to start bleeding

      Sincerely,

      Steve Toll

  3. Pingback: Winning Links: October 15th 2012 | The Wages of Wins Journal

  4. jbrett says:

    Yeah, this is awful. The only legit point you make is they should have kept Billups; otherwise, they cleaned up on the Melo trade. After ‘playing out of position’ for a decade, Nene proved center really IS his position; he SUUUUCKED at PF, and was shipped out. (He, like Chauncey, can always move back to Denver post-career; they can afford it.)

    As for your take on the Iguodala deal–well, either provide me with quotes from the principals to back up your interpretation, on send me your measurements and I’ll try to find you a straightjacket. Iguodala for Gasol, straight up, would not have been a bad deal; to get him for an adequate SG like Afflalo and the supermassive black hole that is Al Harrington is a flat-out steal. Play him at SG, and Danilo can STILL be your point forward (if that’s a big selling point for you); the only problem this team has now is a coach who will manage to find the least effective guys on the roster and anoint them with holy water.

    I may try to read the other parts of your manifesto to wrong-headedness, but I’ll try to refrain from commenting further; we’ve known for centuries that it’s just wrong to flog the lunatics to make them dance.

    • “Nene proved center really IS his position; he SUUUUCKED at PF” [...]

      Right. And I’m sure you used some relatively benign form of PER and/or advanced +/- numbers to back up such assertions with literally no thought to Nene’s teammates, his opponents, or the inherent complexities therein.

      Because here’s a great idea: Take a 6-foot-11, 276-pound beast with cat-like quickness, a handle, an ability to pass from EVERYWHERE on the floor, a jump-shot out to 15-feet, and put him at center where he’ll be matched up with players likely bigger, taller, and longer than him (it’s for this same reason that Mozgov is able to play so well against Andrew Bynum. He’s able to neutralize the massive Bynum with his incredible length and core-strength.)

      Bigger, taller, longer players are able to defend a player like Nene with much more ease than those he’d see at power forward for the simple reason that they are bigger. Case in point: The 2010 first round playoff series against Utah changed on a dime when Jazz coach Jerry Sloan inserted Kyrylo Fesenko into the starting lineup.

      Putting him at power forward (given you have a respectable player at center like Washington gave him in Emeka Okafor) gives your team a distinct matchup advantage that’s very difficult to counter. How do you think Kenneth Faried will fair checking Nene on the block when the Wizards and Nuggets meet? Can you say “scorched Earth”? (But Faried is productive, which is all that matters — outside of the fact that he can’t stop anyone, which is the single reason Denver’s defense is so awful.)

      “As for your take on the Iguodala deal–well, either provide me with quotes from the principals to back up your interpretation, on send me your measurements and I’ll try to find you a straightjacket.”

      ‘It was over’: Retracing how Lakers got Dwight Howard after all

      Rob Hennigan charts new path for Orlando Magic

      Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak on the Dwight Howard deal: “We thought it was dead”

      “Iguodala for Gasol, straight up, would not have been a bad deal; to get him for an adequate SG like Afflalo and the supermassive black hole that is Al Harrington is a flat-out steal.”

      Right. But that simplifies the trade to an almost elementary level. Which I’m sure is something you’d prefer people do. Unfortunately, the game of basketball is a wee-bit more complex than you wish it to be.

      “Play him at SG, and Danilo can STILL be your point forward (if that’s a big selling point for you).”

      There’s more of that simplicity I’m talking about. Sadly, Iguodala isn’t on the level of the shooter he’s replacing on the wing. Which is kind of a big deal.

      “the only problem this team has now is a coach who will manage to find the least effective guys on the roster and anoint them with holy water.”

      Sure. Blame the head coach for not being able to win with JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried — players who can’t shoot, pass, dribble, defend, or catch the ball on some occasions — and a roster that fits together like a box of pick-up sticks.

      “I may try to read the other parts of your manifesto to wrong-headedness, but I’ll try to refrain from commenting further; we’ve known for centuries that it’s just wrong to flog the lunatics to make them dance.”

      I really enjoy your use of semicolons. Just thought I’d mention that. Also, I’m a pretty damn good dancer.

    • Oh, one other thing I failed to address in your response:

      “He (Nene), like Chauncey, can always move back to Denver post-career; they can afford it.”

      First, to my knowledge, Nene and Chauncey both still own homes in Denver (seeing as how Nene’s wife is from here and this is where Chauncey grew up). This is probably something you should already know about them. So, there really is no need to afford anything. They already own homes.

      Second, it’s going to be kind of tough welcoming each player back into the Nuggets organization post-career considering the ways in which they were “shipped out”. They might have some feelings of ill-will after everything they gave the city and team while they were here. Not to mention, I cannot even imagine what they tell other players around the league about Denver.

      Thanks for reading. I’m still a good dancer.

  5. Pingback: Danilo Gallinari, the Denver Nuggets, and Man’s Best Friend « Smooth's Hoops

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