This story first appeared on ClutchPoints.
The Golden State Warriors’ wait is over. Andre Iguodala announced on Friday that he’s putting off retirement to play a 19th and final NBA season. The news comes just a day after both Bob Myers and Steve Kerr insisted they were still unaware of Iguodala’s plans, not to mention less than 24 hours before the Warriors tipoff training camp to officially begin their title defense.
Here’s why Iguodala’s return is such a significant development for the reigning champions.
Leadership and continuity
There’s one main reason why everyone from Stephen Curry to Joe Lacob publicly lobbied over the summer for Iguodala to play one more season with Golden State.
At 38, Iguodala certainly isn’t the all-world defender or high-flying finisher he was in his prime, and surely won’t be a nightly part of Steve Kerr’s rotation across the 82-game grind. Even if he’s healthy enough to garner key minutes in the playoffs, there’s a real possibility Iguodala is left on the bench in certain games against specific teams, his legs saved for matchups that call for Golden State to make life hard on superstar wings, commit even further to small-ball and switch across all five positions.
Still, it’s not Iguodala’s on-court utility that will make him most valuable to Golden State in 2022-2023.
The palpable sense of continuity and leadership his continued presence promotes is what really fits that bill, especially after an offseason that quietly saw significant turnover on the bottom half of the roster and Kerr’s coaching staff. Reserve stalwarts like Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damion Lee are gone, and Mike Brown took assistant coach Leandro Barbosa — part of the “Strength In Numbers” Warriors, remember — with him to the Sacramento Kings.
Golden State’s ongoing success stems largely from the culture Iguodala helped implement upon joining the team in 2013-2014, and further fostered a year later when he agreed to come off the bench for the first time in his career. His name isn’t frequently mentioned by team insiders next to those of Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson by accident. Iguodala is a franchise icon, and he commands that type of respect in the locker room from all of his teammates, not just the Warriors’ youngsters.
Development of Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody
Andrew Wiggins credited Iguodala’s influence during his post-title appearance on Point Forward for his breakout performance during Golden State’s championship run, appreciation that was on full display when he exited Game 6 of the NBA Finals late in the fourth quarter, sharing an emotional, celebratory embrace with his veteran teammate.
It’s probably foolish to expect Wiggins to take another leap. Merely cementing himself this season as perhaps basketball’s best non-star wing and a surefire All-Defense candidate would be further evidence of more marginal improvement under the watchful eye of Iguodala and the Warriors.
It’s a pair of Wiggins’ young teammates stand to benefit most from Iguodala’s return.
“I’m looking forward to playing,” Iguodala said on Friday, “but I’m also on [Jonathan] Kuminga and I’m on Moses Moody and I’m on the young fellas, and I’m letting them know, ‘Listen, if I get on this court you ain’t doing something right. There’s no way you should allow me to get on the court.’ I know that I’m gonna get on the court, but that’s just kind of what I’m going to be feeding to them guys and making sure that when I walk away everything’s taken care of.”
Iguodala and Green have lauded Moody for his precocious basketball IQ and understanding of what it takes to be a professional. Kerr recently pushed back on the notion that Kuminga has ample room to grow in that latter regard, but Iguodala’s point stands regarding both sophomore wings nonetheless.
He’ll serve as a sounding board and source of guidance for Kuminga and Moody that none of his teammates and coaches can match, aiding in their ever-important growth as Kerr looks to develop a playing rotation behind Golden State’s entrenched top-six. That doesn’t mean Iguodala won’t ever play ahead of them; he wouldn’t have come back if Kerr hadn’t assured him of a real on-court role.
Even if he doesn’t want to be Udonis Haslem, though, Iguodala is clearly ready and willing to mentor the Warriors’ young players. With tone-setting stars like Curry and Green still counted on to drive Golden State’s success on either side of the ball, the presence of another accomplished veteran teammates can lean on looms especially large.
Supplemental playmaking and defensive versatility
Don’t get it twisted. As much as the intangibles Iguodala naturally brings to the table matter to the Warriors, so does what he actually brings to the court in the true twilight of his career. Discussing his decision on Point Forward, Iguodala admitted that confidence instilled in him by Kerr and Green indeed played a part in his choice to put off retirement for one more season.
“They really helped me see my presence outside of physically playing basketball, but also I think Steve was a big culprit in terms of like, ‘Listen, we really need you on the court,’ and Draymond was big on that as well with the texts,” he said.
The Warriors’ best case involves both Moody and Kuminga squarely out-playing Iguodala, leaving him third in Golden State’s reserve wing pecking order. But even in that optimistic scenario, Iguodala’s natural playmaking comfort and ability to quarterback a defense on the floor would make him a valuable option off the bench — especially in the playoffs.
The Warriors don’t have another proven perimeter ball handler capable of initiating offense outside of Curry and Jordan Poole. It’s easy to see Iguodala playing de facto point guard for brief stretches when Curry, Poole or Green is on the bench, just like it is to imagine Kerr calling his number for more extended stretches when additional defense is needed against a team like the LA Clippers come the postseason.
Iguodala’s athleticism has faded and his health is unreliable, but his two-way versatility nevertheless helps fill multiple holes on Golden State’s roster that might have been left vacant otherwise. Don’t be shocked when his intangible value, at least occasionally, is matched by what he does on the court. – Rappler.com