For a short time this summer, it appeared that all roads for Dwight Howard would run through Houston with the Rockets. Their general manager Daryl Morey had stockpiled assets and attempted to pluck Pau Gasol, Nene, Andrew Bynum, and Howard away from their teams at separate times. But with last night's reports that Howard would be heading to the Lakers and Andrew Bynum to the 76ers, the Rockets missed out again. And the Nuggets are to blame.
Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke got involved with the trade talks and were able to absorb Andre Iguodala's contract by dealing Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington (and perhaps a 1st round pick) to the Orlando Magic as part of a four-team deal. The Nuggets have been quietly rumored to have a long interest in Iguodala and now they got their man.
Here is what Jordan Sams of Liberty Ballers emailed me last night on Iguodala:
Andre Iguodala has been miscast and under-appreciated his entire career. Despite his low scoring output, he's one of the top 25 or 30 players in the entire NBA, and epitomizes the meaning of team player and sacrifice. If Dre wanted to, he could average 20 points per game, as he did the season Iverson left, but it'd be to the detriment of his team. Instead, he scores efficiently, and opportunistically, while having a positive impact in every other aspect of the game.
With Iguodala's all-around basketball ability, he falls somewhere between a homeless man's LeBron James, and poor man's Scottie Pippen - two tremendous compliments. Along with being a terror in transition and an underrated spot-up shooter (See: Team USA), Iguodala is the second-best passing forward in the NBA, and arguably the league's best perimeter defender.
Where Iguodala fails, is when people expect him to carry the scoring load and/or excel as an isolation player - he's ineffective in both areas. Ideally, he'd be paired with a high usage superstar, like Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant, but I think he'll fit in just fine, next to Ty Lawon and Danilo Gallinari.
The Nuggets just added a top flight NBA player, and future gold medalist. He will improve the team defense, and only add to the high-flying offense.
Iguodala will turn 29 years old this January. He'll make $14.9 million this season and has a $16.1 million player option for the 2013-14 season. So, Iggy would likely be seeking an extention, while still in the prime of his career or he could bolt Denver after the coming season in hopes of greener pastures. Oh, and he would continue the fine tradition of shooting guards with odd names for the Nuggets (yes, he'd play a lot of minutes at the 2).
And my "verdict" on the trade:
I'm always on the fence. I can see this trade improving the Nuggets and also freeing up some minutes for other players. This deal would create more minutes for Wilson Chandler and might make more room for Jordan Hamilton in the rotation. And it certainly could open up minutes for Evan Fournier sooner rather than later. And if the deal went through with the Nuggets adding one guy for two, it also opens up an additional roster spot for Masai Ujiri and the Nuggets - perhaps a spot for Quincy Miller (who must be tendered a contract by Sept. 6th for the Nuggets to retain his rights). But what would Denver do about a backup power forward for Kenneth Faried?
'Dre isn't quite the superstar that some in Nuggets Nation have been clamoring over. With his addition and the subtraction of two main rotation guys, does the deal really make the Nuggets clearly a better team than the Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, or Dallas Mavericks? Not so fast. Could the deal propel Denver above the Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, or Los Angeles Lakers? I don't see it.
Worst case scenario, I see this deal keeping the Nuggets in the middle of the pack out West. At best, I could see this deal and the improvement of other players on the roster propelling Denver to either the second or third seed out West, if everything broke right.
Thinking about this deal a little more, the more I like it. Anthony Randolph has a golden opportunity to work his way into the rotation as Faried's backup. Danilo Gallinari can slide over to the power forward spot for a few minutes as George Karl can turn to Chandler, Corey Brewer, or Hamilton at the small forward spot. The Nuggets continue to have tremendous depth, as they basically turned two contracts into one with the addition of Iguodala.
Having watched the Sixers last season, Iguodala played a very similar role to Al Harrington. He was the veteran who the younger guys turned to for leadership and he delivered. The offense in Philly counted on Iggy in many different ways. He's a playmaker that averaged 5.5 assists per game, he can score when needed with 11 games over 17 points (including three playoff games), he rebounds very well with 6.1 boards per game, and his defense is something that Team USA had to have.
After Philly traded Allen Iverson away, to the Nuggets, Iguodala was the face of the Sixers. But for 'Dre, it was always about being Scottie Pippen, the guy who does the little things and plays defense (check out this story). Fitting in with this Nuggets team should be an easy fit. George Karl doesn't pigeonhole guys into positions and the Nuggets still have a lot of flexibility to run a lot of different combinations of guys at teams.
Rumors out of Philly of 'Dre-2 being on the trade block for four-years and clashing with his coach Doug Collins are not exactly what you want to hear, but all would appear to be good for the All-Star and Olympic baller. A fresh start for Iguodala, but with a similar team-first approach in Denver will be good for all parties.
Iguodala is a different kind of star. He's a guy who shines on defense and will fill up the stat sheet on offense. He's really the perfect fit for the Nuggets. Had Denver landed somebody that commanded the ball and the bulk of the shots on offense, that would stunt the growth of Ty Lawson, Gallo, Faried, Chandler, Hamilton, and JaVale McGee. The young guys will still be leaned on to do the majority of the scoring, and they'll learn a lot from Iguodala. Perhaps we'll see a better defensive team.
The Nuggets had an under-appreciated star in Chauncey Billups just a few seasons ago. And now Ujiri and Kroenke have pulled off a similarly under-rated move.
Farewell to Afflalo and Harrington:
Nuggets Nation is going to miss AAA and Big Al. Afflalo was a tremendously hard worker and well liked by those he worked with. He has seen his game improve in each of his NBA seasons and was becoming a very well-rounded player for the Nuggets. I am sad to see him head to Orlando and I wish him the best of luck. The Magic got a very good young player and I hope he continues to flourish.
Al Buckets, a couple crazy seasons in Denver. Harrington battled plantar fasciitis and constant criticism in his first season with the Nuggets after signing his $35 million deal. And last season he bounced back like few players do. He came into the shortened training camp in tremendous shape and helped carry the Nuggets for much of the season as the scoring pop off the bench. He again battled injuries, but this time they came late in the season as he tore his meniscus and then broke his nose in the playoffs. Big Al was looked up to by his teammates and even went to Las Vegas this summer, after suffering from staph infection due to knee surgery, to be with his young teammates. I will miss his timely three-pointers and goofy celebrations after big shots.
I wish Afflalo and Harrington well in Orlando.
Nate_Timmons on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Nate_Timmons