Two weekends ago some friends and I took a nine-hour drive to the southern tip of North Carolina for a week of sunshine, warm ocean, and some much-needed R and R.  I rode down with my buddy Keely, who brought to the table an old Saab that gets great MPG’s, an IPod with the new Roots album on it, and a head unusually well packed with ideas about sports.  When casual conversation took us as far as it could (Northern Virginia) we moved into an NBA fantasy draft.  Our drafting principle was this; the teams we’d picked would actually play—well imaginarily–but we had to pick them as though they would play.  So you didn’t want to just gun for big names and big numbers.  The goal was to construct the best team possible– not just an All-Star team.  After a hard fought rock-paper-scissors contest to secure the first pick we dove in and the names started flying off the board.

And then after a while, the names stopped flying.

Keely had frozen up.  He was sitting on his pick and was a versatile three shy of filling out his starting lineup (CP3, Wade, Duncan, Howard), but he was stumped.  He had scorers.  He had a distributor.  He had a take charge, crunch time guy.  What he needed was a glue guy.  Someone who could burn at several spots and defend, hopefully multiple positions.  Handle the ball if need be.  Hit an open jumper.  Press.

But who?  There aren’t a lot of guys in the Association that fit the profile.  After five minutes of quiet contemplation he took the cowards way out and drafted Melo.  Fair enough, I thought, a three’s a three.  But something nagged at me, tip of my brain, until we can a couple more miles and the root of the nag showed itself.  There had been a perfect fit for him waiting on the board.   A guy who brought everything to the table his team lacked.  A guy with the versatility to lend a hand wherever one was needed.  A guy who plays on both ends of the court.  A guy with a difficult name to spell.

That guy is Andre Iguodala.  I was struck by the implications of this.  Wow, I thought, Andre Iguodala should have gotten picked to play on one of two imaginary super-teams my friend and I made up on a car ride while we were delirious from NoDoz and Red Bull.  He’s that good?

He is.

So while I doubt this is exactly the way these teams get picked, what I’m saying I get Andre making the final 15 (and eventually the final 12) for Team USA.  What I don’t get is that other people don’t get it.

What They Don’t Get

It’s often said derisively by callers-in on local radio stations, and agreed with by the hosts, that Iguodala could be the third, maybe second, best guy on a title team.  While this is probably true, what the callers don’t say or realize is that this makes him great.

Here, in chronological order, is a list of the second and third most productive players on every NBA champion between 1978 and this past season:

Elvin Hayes and Bobby Dandridge, Gus Williams and Dennis Johnson, Magic Johnson and Jamaal Wilkes, Robert Parish and Cedric Maxwell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Norm Nixon, Mo Cheeks and Julius Erving, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale, AC Green and James Worthy, Byron Scott and AC Green, Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn, Bill Laimbeer and Joe Dumars, Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant, Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant, Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant, Otis Thorpe and Robert Horry, Clyde Drexler and Robert Horry, Dennis Rodman and Scottie Pippen, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, Michael Jordan and Ron Harper, Tim Duncan and Mario Elie, Kobe Bryant and Ron Harper, Kobe Bryant and Rick Fox, Kobe Bryant and Robert Horry, David Robinson and Jalen Rose, Chauncey Billups and Tayshon Prince, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, Shaq and Udonis Haslem, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo, Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom, and Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant*.

(*Berri, David J., and Martin B. Schmidt. Stumbling on Wins: Two Economists Expose the Pitfalls on the Road to Victory in Professional Sports. Pgs 85-87)

Notice anything about these guys?  I’ll wait.  Never mind, I have to leave shortly because I’m seeing “Inception” in like 15 minutes.  HALF OF THEM ARE HALL OF FAMERS!  These are what secondary and tertiary guys look like on great teams. Great.

At this point you, or possibly an obnoxious cousin reading over your shoulder reply, “But what about Iguodala’s contract, it’s soooooo big.” 

Now, I didn’t want to reopen this can of worms, because I’ve made this argument before, as have other writers for this blog, but it bears repeating, your cousin needs correcting, and I still have 13 minutes before Inception starts, so here goes: Andre Iguodala is a very, very good player.  And his contract—that “senseless albatross of a deal” everybody rants and raves about in the rare minutes Sixers talk gets air time in this Eagles / Phils mad city– pays him less than what he deserves.  Much less.

Since 2005-2006 (the soonest year this data was available), here’s a monetized look at the Sixers’ relationship with Mr. Iguodala.

Fiscal Year Wins Produced Cost of a Win* Value of Wins Amount Paid Surplus Value
2005-2006 11.7 $1.347 mil $15.76 mil $2.058 mil $13.702 mil
2006-2007 11.61 $1.478 mil $17.16 mil $2.202 mil $14.96 mil
2007-2008 11.14 $1.610 mil $17.94 mil $2.805 mil $15.135 mil
2008-2009 12.46 $1.755 mil $21.87 mil $11.3 mil $10.57 mil
2009-2010 13.63 $1.730 mil $23.58 mil $12.2 mil $11.38 mil


(*This figure was arrived at by dividing total player salaries for each given season by total wins in each given season, or 41 per team.)

So, since the 2005-2006 season the Sixers have paid Andre Iguodala $30.565 million and for this investment have received $96.31 million of production.  And since he signed his current deal he’s given them $10 million plus of surplus value each year; a return which will likely continue given that he’ll only be 29 when the deal expires and he’s unlikely to suffer any significant performance decline between now and then.  So again, for (maybe) the last time, Andre is a very good player on a very favorable contract.  He gives more than he gets.*

(*All this said, his salary does arguably exceed his perceived market value, so it could be argued Ed Stefanski could have signed him for less.  This is a different issue though.)

So he’s great for the Sixers, and if he ends up making the final cut for Worlds–and all signs point to that happening– he’s sort of a perfect fit for them too.

Why He’s So Perfect for the National Team– On Top of all that Other Stuff I Already Mentioned

Here’s why.

(Chart courtesy of www.wagesofwins.com.  God I love those guys.)

As you can see from the above, this past season he was the fourth most productive player on the team as it’s presently projected.  Good rule: If a guy is better than all but three of your guys, and you need 12 guys, it’s a good deal if he becomes one of your guys.  This particular guy’s also a good fit temperament wise.  Because he’s not a “star” he’ll have no problem sublimating his ego and deferring when more effective scorers are on the court.  No touches? He’ll just fill up the stat sheet in other ways.  At the same time, if a few of the heavy hitters are resting or in foul trouble, he has the experience and the capability as a prime creator to carry the offensive burden for stretches.

But what’s in it for Iggy?

Prestige maybe?  I’m not sure.  While I want Iggy to make the team and do well, it’s not without reservations.  The NBA season is a grind.  82 games is a lot of games, and it seems to me like it behooves players to take a nice long break when it’s all over with to let their bruised and battered bodies heal themselves.  When you’re running at game speed with the national team you don’t get much of a chance to do that.  And there’s reason to believe this effects guys the following season.

Below is the infamous 2006 World team’s player’s performance’s the season before and the season after the debacle in Japan. 


These players combined to produce 147.94 victories in the 2005-’06 season but only 119.75 in 2006-‘07*.  This is a pretty considerable dip in production.  Is it attributable to their lack of off-season rest?  I’m not sure.  If it is, would Iggy be affected by it?  I actually imagine that given his strength, athleticism, and rigorous workout regiment (the guy doesn’t even train with the Sixers because they don’t train hard enough) he would be less prone than others.  He’s like a poor (not Dickensian poor, but still poor) man’s Lebron.  And while Lebron regressed a bit the season after Japan, he actually took a leap forward the season following the Olympics—which is much more of an energy drain than the Worlds.

(*All numbers courteous of Wins Produced Numbers From Andres Alvarez, whose site provides an excellent and necessary service for the stat junkies amongst us. One note about his wins produced numbers though. He employs an algorithm to determine player position-a key element in the assignment of wins produced- rather than recording how much time each player spent playing each position (which is completely understandable given that the latter would take a retarded amount of time to do). His algorithm considers height and body mass index and a few other things—long story short, it’s flawed. That said, given that we’re only comparing players against themselves, it shouldn’t be a huge issue for us, unless one of these guys switched positions in 06-07, which to my knowledge didn’t happen.)

I guess I‘m also excited about him getting some tutelage from Coach K.   I hate Duke as much as the next guy, but seriously, Coach K made Trajan Langdon look like Kobe Bryant…Trajan Langdon.

So in summation: Iguodola’s great.  Your cousin’s a loser.  Team USA could use him (Iguodala, not your cousin. Unless your cousin is Dwight Howard).  And maybe he could use them too.

And I missed Inception.

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