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Thriving At the Two?

Much like Mo Cheeks before him, Eddie Jordan's finger has been dangling millimeters above the panic button for most of the season. When he presses it, Andre Iguodala goes back to SF, Thad goes back to PF, and again we're robbed of a decent look at how those to can coexist on the wings. Since we've got 21 games of data, and we may not get too much more, I thought now would be a good time to assess how Iguodala has performed when he's played the two.

Let's start with a split using the rotation data I've been compiling all season long:

In 13 of 21 games, Iguodala has played 30 or more minutes at the two. Meaning, he played the two most of the game. These are his cumulative numbers from those games (per game):

  • 7.6 FG/17.1 FGA (44.6% FG%)
  • 1.6 3P/4.46 3PA (36.2% 3P%)
  • 3.9 FT/5.46 FTA (71.8% FT%)
  • 7.38 rebounds (6.46 defensive)
  • 5.77 assists
  • 1.92 steals
  • 0.2 blocks
  • 3.3 turnovers
  • 20.8 points
In the other 8 games (playing fewer than 30 minutes at SG), meaning he played a huge chunk of his minutes at the three or four, these were his cumulative numbers (per game):

  • 5.9 FG/14.9 FGA (39.5% FG%)
  • 1.0 3P/3.5 3PA (28.6% 3P%)
  • 5.0 FT/5.9 FTA (80.9% FT%)
  • 5.75 rebounds (4.75 defensive)
  • 5.75 assists
  • 2.38 steals
  • 1.4 blocks
  • 3.13 turnovers
  • 17.5 points
This is far from a perfect metric to use. What we're looking at here is the cumulative effect of Iguodala playing heavy minutes at the two within a certain game, and those heavy minutes' affect on his total numbers. There are way too many variables (like the affect of playing a big lineup, period. When he's at the two, they're running big for the most part. If the big lineup works better, his numbers will probably be better). I'm also crediting all of his stats from the game, rather than simply breaking out his stats when he's at the two or the three (or the one or the four). There's a stark difference here, and I believe it can at least partially be attributed to consistent minutes at the two, and the mismatches playing SG with his size and strength causes, but it's not definitive.

Luckily, 82games.com does break down stats by position played, so let's take a look at what they have to say:

As SG, 52% of total minutes (numbers are per 48 minutes)

  • 19.6 FGA
  • 0.467 eFG
  • 6.5 FTA
  • 8.9 REB
  • 8.5 AST
  • 4.0 TOV
  • 0.9 BLK
  • 2.1 PF
  • 22.9 Points

As SF, 27% of total minutes (numbers are per 48 minutes, again)

  • 19.3 FGA
  • 0.461 eFG
  • 7.0 FTA
  • 7.0 REB
  • 4.7 AST
  • 3.8 TOV
  • 0.9 BLK
  • 2.8 PF
  • 23.5 Points
If you go a step further with 82games.com's numbers, you'd see that Iguodala is also a much more effective defender at the two, but I think those numbers can't be trusted when we're talking about the Sixers and their useless rotation schemes. Playing within that system means other guys are going to wind up responsible for your man quite frequently, and vice versa. I've yet to see Igudoala lose a one-on-one matchup this season, and as usual he's taken the toughest wing assignment regularly.

Alright, so a couple of takeaways from this exercise, at least in my mind.

  1. When Iguodala settles into the two spot in the lineup and plays there for more than 30 minutes, he's much more effective. He shoots better from all distances, he gets others involved more, he scores more efficiently.
  2. The overall numbers also trend heavily toward Iguodala being better when he plays the two. They're closer, but again he's more efficient, rebounds better hands out a ton more assists, etc.
  3. The +/- numbers aren't great with him at either position, but they are significantly better when he's at the three. Mainly because the team defends at a much higher rate with him at the two than the three. This isn't purely about Iguodala, considering they're running with small lineups AND they have Willie Green on the floor more often than not when Iguodala is at the three.

Is there a definitive answer here? No, definitely not. It's too early to tell and we haven't even begun to quantify Thad's contributions at the three vs. the four, but through this 21-game stretch, all the numbers seem to point toward Iguodala himself and the team being better off with AI9 at the two. Most importantly, there is absolutely no statistical evidence to support the notion that Iguodala "Can't play the two," or the Sixers need to move him back to the three. Any move in that direction would be counterproductive, in my opinion, and a clear sign that the team's weaknesses are being blamed on arbitrary factors without any deep thought or research backing to back them up.

That being said, I won't be shocked in the least if/when Jordan finally makes this switch.

It looks like Jrue will be available tonight, I'll have the preview and game thread up some time after 5pm.
by Brian on Dec 9 2009
Tags: Andre Iguodala | Basketball | Sixers |