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Andre Iguodala: Denver's hidden treasure All-Star

By Matt Moore | NBA writer
Andre Iguodala brings a quiet brilliance to the Mile High City. (Getty Images)

There was no parade, no pyro, no pomp nor circumstance for Andre Iguodala's arrival in Denver. The All-Star wing was introduced Thursday in Denver, not on the steps of somewhere like Centennial Hall like Andrew Bynum was in Philadelphia, or to the rousing applause in Los Angeles for Dwight Howard. It was just a presser. Professional, brief, and relaxed.

The sentiment was basically "Yup, got an All-Star. Gonna win some games. Anything else? No? Cool, see you in the fall, guys."

Iguodala was not beaming as Andrew Bynum was at the overflow of love for him Wednesday, and wasn't giggly like Dwight Howard was in Los Angeles last Friday. He was confident that the Nuggets can win, talked about his relationship with team president Josh Kroenke, and made some jokes about the trash talk from fellow Team USA members.

When asked about how he would fit in Denver's transition game, Iguodala deadpanned "Just run fast, it's pretty simple." He then went on to talk about how he can fit with a faster-pace game and use his skills.

This is who Iguodala is. Well, but plain spoken, a pro's pro and someone who is willing to be a leader without being the leading scorer or the focus of the offense. He's not flashy, he's just very good.

And that's been missed in all the hulabaloo of Howard joining the super team in yellow and gold, and Bynum going to Philadelphia to make his own name. The Nuggets walked out of the deal with an All-Star that makes them a different, and better team.

For years, Iguodala has been the underrated versatile player for the Sixers. He's not a top-notch scorer, he isn't dominant, but the things that Iguodala can do are nearly impossible to find available. He's able to guard two guards, small forwards, and power forwards in a smallball lineup. He can manage the pick and roll and pressure the ball. He can make the set-up pass, rebound, start the break and dish in transition.

But none of those things are dunking in transition, scoring 40 points, or blocking shots in the sixth row. So Iguodala largely goes unnoticed. Even his place on Team USA was looked at as an "add-on" when in reality, it was Iguodala's contributions on the floor that the coaching staff loved, on both ends.

The Nuggets added Iguodala, and while it does't radically change their team, the shift should be considered important to the Nuggets' outlook. They lost a shooter in Arron Afflalo and a scorer in Al Harrington. What they got back is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, who can guard Derrick Rose, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant in consecutive games. He's a statstuffer but more importantly, he does all the things which aren't captured, the "winning plays" coaches always talk about.

How Iguodala adjusts to a faster pace will be very interesting. The Sixers did get out in transition selectively last year, but they were also one of the slowest-pace teams in the league. The Nuggets averaged over 96 possessions (estimated) per game last season. In the 14 games with 96 or more for Philadelphia, Iguodala's game changed slightly. His usage rose from 17.72 to 19.72, meaning that more possessions ended with a shot or turnover for Iguodala. His rebounding and assist rates dropped slightly, but maybe most notably, his TrueShooting percentage, which factors three-point shooting and free throws, rose from his season average of 54 percent to 63 percent, a gaudy number for a wing.

In short, Iguodala in faster-paced games became less versatile and scored more, and more efficiently. Whether that plays out in Denver the same way has yet to be seen, because Denver has more weapons and a better transition system than Philadelphia. But it bodes well for Iguodala to fill the gap left by the scoring that left. If the offense remains at the elite level it was, and Iguodala helps the defense take a major step forward, the Nuggets may really be ready to move up a rung in the West.

They're not a title contender, not with the kind of teams they're up against. But this gives them the first superstar to build a team around with all those young assets. Even if no one knows his name.

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