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Iguodala's Dominant Defense

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Over the summer, Andre Iguodala represented the stars and stripes and assumed the role of defensive stopper for Mike Krzyzewski's team and performed that role brilliantly. He absolutely stoned every opposing team's best scorer. People noticed. Here's the funny thing: When the NBA season came around, Iguodala never stopped playing that role. The only thing that's changed is that instead of humbling Linus Kleiza, he's now doing it to LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant. Oh, and people are no longer noticing. That has to change.

As Sixers fans, we spend a good amount of time lamenting the lack of national recognition for our team and its players. Jrue Holiday was the lone representative of the City of Brotherly Love in LA this past weekend for the All Star festivities. Evan Turner was snubbed from the Rookie/Sophomore game. We spend countless hours complaining about these things after the fact. It's time to change that. It's time for us to get the word out before the mistake is made. If Andre Iguodala isn't on the NBA All Defensive Team, and I mean the first team, something has gone horribly wrong. If Iguodala isn't in the top three for Defensive Player of the Year, again, someone dropped the ball.

There are two huge stumbling blocks standing between Iguodala and these accolades: (1) The national media ignores the Sixers. (2) The Sixers don't win enough games. The Sixers are working on fixing number two, I'm hoping we'll be able to do something about number one.

Let's start out by playing the mainstream media's game. This is a star-driven league, and to be a true star, you have to score points. Even if you don't play a lick of defense, if you don't grab rebounds, hand out assists, as long as you can score 22+ PPG, you're a star. 25+ PPG and you're a superstar. Well, here's the thing about scorers. They can be shut down. It doesn't happen often, but it happens. And here's the thing about Andre Iguodala. He's the one who shuts them down. He is kryptonite to the wing superstars in this league.

Here's his current victim list from this season. I'm only including stars or superstars here, to keep it simple:

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Impressive stat lines, to say the least, for the guy who got fewer DPOY votes last season than David Lee, but they don't even begin to tell the whole story. Iguodala is the rarest of the rare in this league when it comes to defensive stoppers. Every single night, he gets the toughest perimeter assignment on the defensive end, and he sticks with that guy, like glue, for the entirety of the game, unless someone else gets hot, then he takes that guy, and shuts him down. He doesn't get nights off. He doesn't get to coast while the other wing takes the tougher matchup, he's on the other team's best wing, without fail. How often does Kobe guard LeBron? Never. That's why the Lakers have Artest. Kobe has been riding Artest's (and Ariza's before him) coattails on the defensive end to All-Defensive Team honors for years. Igudoala doesn't get a free ride. This is an important distinction when you look at the table below.

Here, we're looking at 42 starting wings in the NBA (everyone of note on the defensive side of the ball), across five statistical defensive categories. PPP Allowed is from Synergy Sports, and it is as it sounds. The amount of points allowed by the man guarded by the player, per possession, on defense. This includes made field goals, made free throws, and turnovers by his man only. PER against is from 82games.com, and measures the overall production of the defender's man in all of his minutes on the floor. DFR on is the team's defensive rating (points allowed per-100-possessions) when the player is on the floor, DFR off is the team's defensive efficiency rating when the player is on the bench and DFR differential is the difference between the two. The DFR numbers come from BasketballValue.com

I consider PPP to be the most accurate measure of a defender's effectiveness, PER against is an opaque formula (and hasn't been updated since the middle of January), and DFR is highly reliant on team defense (the differential can also be greatly influenced by the quality of defender who is replacing the player when he is on the bench), but it's worthwhile to see how Iguodala ranks in each category, among starters only here:

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* Memphis' DFR numbers were not available from BasketballValue.com, so I had to substitute numbers from 82games.com, which were out-of-date and I believe use a different formula.

Iguodala ranks first in PPP Allowed, second in PER against, 7th in DFR when he's on the floor, and fifth in DFR differential among all wing starters of note. Kobe and Gerald Wallace, the two wings who made first team all defense last season, rank near the bottom of the list in most categories.

Of course, when I claim Iguodala is the best wing defender in the league, I'm not only talking about starters. I'm talking about all wings, so let's expand the list to include the defensive specialists who play limited minutes:



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* Memphis' DFR numbers were not available from BasketballValue.com, so I had to substitute numbers from 82games.com, which were out-of-date and I believe use a different formula.

When we include guys like Tony Allen and Ronnie Brewer, who play limited minutes, often against second-team players, Iguodala is still the best in the league in PPP against, and ranks 4th in PER against, 12th in DFR and 8th in DFR differential.

Let's tie this up in a nice little bow. Andre Iguodala has absolutely stoned the best offensive wings in the league on a regular basis (the list above is only the highlights, he's been that good almost every night. Only once has someone scored more than 25 on him, his first game back from his achilles injury Danny Granger did it). He's spent the entire season guarding the best wing scorer on the opposing team for the entire game, and he's still at or near the top in every available advanced defensive statistic.

On top of that, he's anchoring a team ranked 9th in DFR when really only one other player on the roster can even be considered average defensively - Elton Brand - and average might be a stretch. Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner will both probably wind up being very good defenders, but they aren't there yet. Iguodala is the only fully-formed defensive piece, and the guys protecting the rim behind Iguodala are an absolute joke, yet he still shuts down everyone he faces.

There's the evidence, in whatever form people want to swallow it. As far as I'm concerned, this is a no-brainer. Over the AS break, Doc Rivers came out and said Iguodala was a definite first-teamer this year, so that's one vote in the bag (hopefully). The All-Defense team is actually voted on by the 30 head coaches in the league. Let's do our best to make sure word gets around to the other 28 coaches. As for DPOY, well, it's the sportswriters themselves who cast votes for that one, so they need to see these lists. Retweet it, like it on Facebook, e-mail it to writers, show your friends. Whatever you can do, do it. It's time to be proactive.
by Brian on Feb 22 2011
Tags: AI9 4 DPOY | Andre Iguodala | Basketball | Sixers |