Why Andre Iguodala Will Have Biggest Impact of Any Free-Agent Signing in 2013-14

From Bleacher Report - NBA
September 19, 2013 - 9:12pm
Dwight Howard and Josh Smith generated more buzz during the offseason's free-agent period, but no acquisition is going to have a bigger effect on his new team than Andre Iguodala. Let's be clear on something from the outset: We're not just talking in terms of wins and losses. There are too many variables involved and it's far too early to know where teams are going to wind up in the standings when the dust settles on the 2013-14 season. Maybe the Golden State Warriors will make a bigger year-over-year leap in the win column than the Houston Rockets will. But then again, maybe they won't. Still, it's worth noting that Iguodala seems to think the Dubs will take the aforesaid leap in the standings this season. According to Antonio Gonzalez of the Associated Press, Iguodala said: 'I would say more than [50 wins],' Iguodala said Wednesday at the team's downtown Oakland headquarters, where most players have been voluntarily working out for about three weeks before training camp starts Sept. 29. 'I just have really high expectations for us. I won't say too much about wins. I'd rather fly under the radar.' If he's right, the Warriors could be in line for the best season they've had in more than two decades.  Year-end results are great, but what's much more interesting—and indicative of Iguodala's potentially massive impact—is the way he'll totally reform the Warriors on the court and in the minds of observers around the league.   Defensive Identity Ask most casual fans to describe the Warriors and you'll get responses that generally pertain to the team's recent history of uptempo basketball: fast, exciting, high-scoring. You know, stuff like that. While it's not necessarily wrong to categorize the Dubs as a team that has always liked to run, it's actually a somewhat outdated way to think of them. The misidentification is understandable, though, as the Warriors spent 20 years operating as an all-flash, no-substance enterprise. Things started to change last year, though. Under a new ownership group that actually cared about winning games, Golden State finally made defense a priority. Players and coaches started to spout truisms that would have sounded normal if they'd come from the New York Knicks of the 1990s or today's Chicago Bulls. It wasn't just talk, either. The Warriors got to work on implementing actual principles, setting up rules that forced players to be accountable for mistakes. Stephen Curry told Grantland's Zach Lowe about the process back in December: Over the summer, we talked about different defensive schemes we were going to have to implement. It’s more just about consistency. Whatever we do, everyone has to be on the same page. You have to preach it over and over, and work it and drill in practice. We’re getting better at it. Everybody’s on a string. In the past, it’s kinda been a shamble defense, where one night we down [send pick-and-rolls toward the sideline], one night we blitz [have a big man rush out at a point guard], and we never really got good at one thing. The new rules begat results, as the Warriors finished the 2012-13 season with a defensive rating that ranked 13th in the NBA, a massive step up from the No. 26 ranking they earned in 2011-12, per NBA.com. The giant improvement in overall defensive efficiency was a big reason the Warriors were able to win 47 games last season. Everyone focused on Curry's brilliant shooting and the team's free-flowing offense, but in reality, Golden State's offense ranked just 10th in the NBA in 2012-13, essentially revealing the team to be a (gasp) balanced outfit. The Warriors were forging a new identity long before Iguodala came aboard, but his arrival signals that the transformation into a full-on defensive monster is now complete. In Denver, Iguodala's presence on the floor accounted for a substantial improvement in the Nuggets' defensive rating. When he played, the Nugs posted a defensive rating of 100.5. When he sat, that figure climbed to 105.3, per NBA.com.  To put that in perspective, the Nuggets defended at a level on par with the Miami Heat's seventh-ranked defense when Iguodala played, but looked more like the Toronto Raptors (No. 22) when he didn't. Next to LeBron James, Iguodala is arguably the league's best perimeter defender. He'll handle the toughest wing matchup on a nightly basis, which will help prevent Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and, at times, even Curry from using up their legs

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