A VOTE TO KEEP AI9

Posted by: Lance Epstein
07/15/10 8:17 am EST

He’s certainly not a mega-star like Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Dwyane Wade or even Kevin Durant and you could make a strong argument that he has failed to take that next step to all-star status, but heading into the future I believe Andre Iguodala is a key component for the Philadelphia 76ers and thus Ed Stefanski should not trade the Sixers wingman.

After giving him a contract extension at a total of $80 million over six years, the Sixers organization expected Iguodala to elevate his level of play and develop into elite player in the League.  To be honest it has not happened.

Of course Iguodala has not had much help either.  For starters, AI9 has played under four head coaches in the last six years – not exactly the stability a young player needs to grow and develop.  But hopefully Doug Collins brings an end to that stretch.

Additionally, the franchise has never been able to find him a right hand man.  The front office’s latest attempt was Elton Brand, who was thought to be the complimentary star to Iguodala’s inevitable superstar.  Upon his signing, the Sixers envisioned Brand as an interior scorer that would change opposing defensive schemes and thus free up Iguodala.  Unfortunately at this time, Brand is not the same player who commanded nightly double-teams before rupturing his Achilles tendon and has turned out to be one of the worst free agent signings in modern NBA history.

Still the coaching carousel and the Brand debacle only make up half of Iguodala’s lack of growth.  He has failed to significantly improve many parts of his game since his contract extension.  In fact, many feel as though he has regressed over the last two seasons.  

His three point shooting, which was a weakness since college, is still abysmal for a shooting guard or small forward.  Since inking his deal two years ago, Igoudala has shot 30.7 [08-09] and 31 [09-10] percent from downtown, which is actually below his career average of 32.1.

Besides his horrendous three-point shooting, Iguodala’s scoring has suffered as well. In the season leading up to his extension [the 2007-08 season], he averaged 19.9 points a game, his career high. Since his breakout year, Iguodala’s point production has dropped to only 17.1 points per game this past season.

One of the main reasons that his point total has not increased like the Sixers anticipated is due to the fact his field goal and free throw percentage have been stagnant.  In four of his first six seasons, Iguodala shot below 48 percent from the field.  Iguodala did improve his field goal percentage to 47.3 percent in 08-09 [from 45.6 in 07-08, but this past season his shot selection was terrible.  Ultimately, it took a toll on his shooting percentage as it dropped by three points to 44.3 percent, not shocking that this happens to be his lowest percentage of his entire career.

However, it is not just his field goal percentage that has been below par.  His free throw attempts and percentages are not what they should be for a guy of his talent and athleticism.   During the three-year span before the 09-10 campaign, Iguodala attacked the basket, drew fouls and got to the line an average of 6.63 times a game. Last year under Eddie Jordan, Iguodala seemed to disappear for long stretches, lose his focus and even his aggressiveness to go up strong with the ball.  He found himself on the charity stripe only 5.3 times per game.  Drawing fouls is only half of the issue; Iguodala has only shot 80 percent or better from the charity stripe once in his six-year career.  The other five seasons, he has shot under 76 percent, shooting a dreadful 73.3 percent this season.  Thus, his poor free throw shooting gets magnified even more since he shot less attempts than he has been averaging in the previous three years.

Even with all those negatives and four years at $54 million remaining on his contract, the Sixers need to keep AI9 if they expect to rebound from their 27-55 record. 

For starters, the NBA is no longer a league where one single player can carry a team on his back to a championship, as Lebron, D-Wade and Kobe [the years before Gasol arrived] have proven in their careers.  A tandem is required not just to be competitive, but in order for the franchise to elevate itself from cellar dwellers to a conference power and eventually the cream of the NBA crop. 

Adding second overall draft pick Evan Turner to lineup should give Iguodala a running mate.  The Sixers will need this potentially dynamic tandem now more than ever with the Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls all upgrading their rosters during this free agency period.

Certainly, Turner and Iguodala have similar deficiencies and many experts believe the two swingmen need the ball in their hands too much to co-exist, but having two young players with such promise and high ceilings is a luxury.  Not many teams in the League have two players that can score, distribute and handle the basketball at a high-level from three different positions. 

Will there be growing pains and struggles with both Iguodala and Turner on the court at the same time?  Of course there will be a learning curve at first since each need time to adjust to the other’s style.  However, in the long run the two might be better players for it and push the Sixers closer to an NBA title as well.  Furthermore, how many times over the years have analysts been wrong on issues such as teammates co-existing on the court?  Remember countless experts declared that the Boston Celtics would never be able to win trying to mesh the egos of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce all wanting to be “the guy.”  Needless to say the Celtics with their two NBA Finals appearances and one championship ring have proven those doubters wrong.

Another rationale for keeping Iguodala in the city of Brotherly Love is the hiring of head coach Doug Collins.  Since entering the League Iguodala has played under the following head coaches — Jim O’Brien, Maurice Cheeks, Tony DiLeo and Eddie Jordan.  Not one of them has the prowess or experience of Collins.  Collins is an experienced tactician who understands how to deal with different egos / personalities and has a knack for pushing the right buttons with young players on the cusp of stardom.  Do not be surprised if under Collins’ coaching style that Iguodala makes huge strides on offense and defense.  With Iguodala’s speed, wingspan and athleticism, Collins can help transform his starting small forward into one of the more feared two way players in the NBA.

Still another reason to keep Iguodala on the Sixers for the foreseeable future is that he has never been surrounded with such talented teammates.  Jrue Holiday is a rising star in this League.  Evan Turner is a great addition.  Thaddeus Young will most likely return to his outstanding sophomore season form after spending a lost year under Eddie Jordan.  Louis Williams is a solid sixth man and Elton Brand can still be a very solid contributor.  Lastly, I expect Jason Kapono, Spencer Hawes and Jodie Meeks to have solid years for the Sixers.  This team is deeper then any other Sixers squad AI9 has played on and that will help his game develop.    

Lastly and probably most important reason not to get rid of the 26-year-old is due to diminishing returns.  Coming off a down year is not the time to trade a player of Iguodala’s skill set because the team will not receive sufficient compensation.  While fans like to bash or take out their frustration on Iguodala, he is not just a salary dump to clear cap room especially with the free agent class being very weak next year [assuming Carmelo Anthony agrees on the three-year extension with the Nuggets]. In order to trade him, general manager Ed Stefanski and the franchise must get players who can make a difference.

One rumor that has surfaced via ESPN’s Ric Bucher was dealing him to the Los Angeles Clippers. A player the 76ers would probably ask for in return is center Chris Kaman. The 28-year-old center would be a nice acquisition, but there are injury concerns with him. In his seven-year career, Kaman has only played a full 82 game slate once [his rookie year] and has only played in 70 games or more just four times. Without doubt Kaman would give the Sixers the interior scoring, rebounds and the shot blocker [18.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 2009-10] that the squad currently lacks, but for how many games a year will he be that guy? Plus, if the Sixers wanted to acquire a center they’d probably want to get one without giving up an intricate part of the team. Some players that fit this description would be Marcus Camby, Andray Blatche or Troy Murphy; all who have been mentioned in trade talks.

Despite Iguodala’s flaws, there are more pros than cons for him staying in Philadelphia. If Collins manages to get through to Iguodala and he rededicates himself to the game, the Sixers might just raise their level of play as well. Ultimately, if he refines his skills then this could mean a return to the golden years for 76ers fans and relevancy in the city for a struggling franchise.


 
 
 

14 Responses to “A VOTE TO KEEP AI9”

  1. Ascher Levy
    15. July 2010 at 09:10

    AI9 has never developed as expected and never will; he’s at best a #3 option for a good team. Let’s get something for him or clear space to get a free agent next year. My biggest concern is the sixers are sitting pat while all these other teams are making trades. Many of the guys we could have traded for are gone now.

  2. KRS1
    17. July 2010 at 03:30

    Since its not a dire need to win championships for this franchise, why is there any speculation that our best player for the past 3-4 years be traded? This man has needed so much help this year and to dog him outta town is the philly way. So why not look at it as if we have one of the top 20 players in the league rather than a top 20 worst contract? If anything we should be doing whatever we can to move elton and willie green. honestly, if the jazz offered kirilenko for brand and green, thatd be a steal. thats the type of offers we should be looking into not iggy just to get rid of iggy. Getting brand was the biggest mistake and all the garbage deals that went with it, and on top of us not considering a trade for beasley( 2nd rd picks?????) i question this franchises ability to offer and complete a trade. honestly elton is worth a glass of water and willie green might be worth whats on the dollar menu. ger rid of those two and we can look forward to a solid base for a franchise and a future with a ton of unknown potential

  3. Ricki
    17. July 2010 at 13:08

    Lance I’m not sure you gave a compelling argument to keep AI9…

    The organization made a huge mistake thinking they could build around him (did they watch the playoffs against the Pistons???). As Ascher said above he’s a 3rd option on a good team.

    The shooting %’s are the exact reason why the Sixers shouldn’t build around him… HE CAN’T SHOOT!!!! And that wouldn’t be so bad bc he does a lot of good things (defend/pass/rebound) but his shot selection is so god awful. 300 3PT-A!!!! He’s a career 32% 3pt shooter, yet he takes 300 threes!!!! Such maturity from a team leader. You don’t build around guys who can’t score, that was the Sixers biggest mistake.

    Trade him now and let Turner and Young develop at the wings. And bid your time with the cap space…

    PS Do you know Doug Collins hasn’t won a playoff series since 1989? Yet you think he is going to lead the Sixers to the promise land? He’ll be gone in less then 3 years…

  4. true fan
    17. July 2010 at 18:09

    as a scorer he will improve if he stops settling for outside shots-havin a better team surroundin him will only help-less defensive focus on him-referees need to start givin him more calls too,he gets hammered with no foul called more than anyone in the league-hes a great rebounder and hes a great passer-assists could only go up with better talent to pass to-and hes a top defender-if they kept stats for tipped balls his numbers would b thru the roof[they disrupt other teams offense more than u know]- he is an allstar for all around play unlike mo williams[cleveland]who made the all star team-n danny granger is only a better scorer but not a better rebounder/defender/passer n hes an allstar-plus he DOESNT miss games all while logging HIGH minutes per game and doing everythin on the court

  5. hk
    18. July 2010 at 09:48

    The decision on what to do with AI9 is one of time frame and expecations. Personally, I would rather see the team bottom out in 2010-2011 and rebuild around another high lottery pick than shoot for 35 to 37 wins and a late lottery pick or to sneak into the playoffs and exit quickly. The time to deal him was at last year’s trade deadline for an expiring contract and maybe a young prospect to free up cap space for the recent draft and current free agency period. A deal would not have cleared enough space for a major free agent signing, but it would have left room to use the space like OKC and Washington did, allowing another team to “bribe” them into taking on a bad one year contract (Mo Pete and Heinrich, respectively) in return for a 1st round pick. The Sixers should be in all out rebuilding mode, thinking of being a title contender in 4 or 5 years when Wade, Bosh and LeBron (and AI9 for that matter) are beginning their decline phases and an extra 1st and a worse record in 2010-2011 would be more beneficial than having AI9 “lead” the team to the back end of the lottery or back to being an 8-seed with no hope of advancing in the playoffs.

  6. Jace Jones
    19. July 2010 at 09:50

    Andre is a number two I would think and never number one. As an AI fine, he doesn’t even deserve the initials. I will agree now is not the time to move him because of the lack of return. He should have been dumped with a move from another free agent in this years class. The team can return to form with him. Elton Brand is an entirely different story.

  7. Ricky
    19. July 2010 at 12:04

    AI9 should return to his form dring the 2006-2008 span of time. Hiring Eddie Jordan and signing Elton Brand were 2 of the biggest mistakes that the sixers make. I think this year the sixers shuld develop their chemistry and potenntial while dending up with a medium or low lottery pick so they can draft a good big man for the 5 position. They would then be able to make a strong run at the nba title.

  8. Ricky
    19. July 2010 at 12:04

    AI9 should return to his form dring the 2006-2008 span of time. Hiring Eddie Jordan and signing Elton Brand were 2 of the biggest mistakes that the sixers made. I think this year the sixers shuld develop their chemistry and potenntial while dending up with a medium or low lottery pick so they can draft a good big man for the 5 position. They would then be able to make a strong run at the nba title.

  9. ActuallyBrown
    19. July 2010 at 14:28

    I don’t agree with Ascher. I think that Doug Collins is the missing piece that the Sixers were looking for last year. I just can’t get over how poorly Eddie Jordan ran that team–how much he wasted all of that talent in 09-10. Collins should at least show us what the team is truly capable of. I don’t think we should make judgments on individual players until we see what the coaching staff can do with them. It’s sad Sammy had to go, but still…this is an interesting experiment; one worth sitting back and watching unfold.

  10. Andrew Yoo
    20. July 2010 at 22:06

    Please keep AI9 because ever since Iverson left there was no one to cheer for…..I am a Sixers fan ever since you drafted AI in 96′ draft and I was at Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals cheering my heart out for the team.

  11. j leo
    22. July 2010 at 08:03

    “Certainly, Turner and Iguodala have similar deficiencies and many experts believe the two swingmen need the ball in their hands too much to co-exist.”

    This is the problem. If one of these guys would develop a decent outside shot, I would feel a lot better. But Dre hasn’t, and he’s had plenty of oppurtunites to do so. I don’t think it’s going to get better now, after seven years of people telling him this. Thus, the pressue is on Turner to adapt to him. If he can’t, I think they have to think about a trade. This is why I wanted them to consider Favors or Cousins in the draft – I know Turner was the best overall pick, but I worry about them clashing. I’m hoping that it works.

  12. J
    26. July 2010 at 03:23

    The Sixers are not the same without ALLEN IVERSON.
    His return could have been so successful but ANDRE destroyed the Sixers’ chemistry,he always seems to want all the attention on himself, he is an excellent player but he constantly wants the ball in his hands.
    Sadly, Doug Collins would have taken advantage of IVERSON’S incredible talent and would have corrected so many team issues.ALLEN IVERSON belongs in Philly.

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    6. August 2010 at 10:33

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    10. December 2010 at 21:28

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