May 2, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson (11) defends Denver Nuggets shooting guard Andre Iguodala (9) on the drive during the first quarter of game six of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Golden State Warriors Western Conference Favorites With Andre Iguodala?

May 2, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Denver Nuggets shooting guard Andre Iguodala (9) congratulates Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry (30) game six of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Nuggets 92-88. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Andre Iguodala has agreed to a four-year, $48 million deal  with the Golden State Warriors after turning down the Denver Nuggets’ reportedly more lucrative offer. Adding Iguodala was made possible as a result of a major salary dump to the Utah Jazz that saw them sending multiple picks as well as Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins and Brandon Rush, to make space for Iguodala.

Additionally, prime free-agent Dwight Howard announced he will be joining James Harden on the Houston Rockets, long considered the frontrunners in the Howard sweepstakes.

So with the crippling of the Los Angeles Lakers (sorry guys, I guess the #StayD12 billboards didn’t quite hit home), strengthening of the Rockets and the Warriors’ latest addition, is Golden State officially a favorite for the Western Conference in 2013-14?  I’d say so.

There are two very important things in particular that Iguodala brings to this Warriors squad: Defense and slashing offense, two things this team has needed for a while.

Iguodala is a solid wing player known for his lock-down perimeter defensive capabilities, and he shows interior skills as a result of his size.  He’s also got a high degree of strength and a very solid frame, bringing plenty of toughness too. Fans of the Warriors will know that solid defense after improving in that area in 2013-13. Now, they have someone who will only bolster it. With Iguodala on the outside either as a floor-stretching small forward or a massive two-guard, he should serve as a defensive complement to Andrew Bogut inside quite nicely.

As far as slashing offense goes, that’s something else this team has really been looking for.  Klay Thompson doesn’t have much of an offensive game to speak of, and Harrison Barnes drives, but doesn’t really slash. He might develop that facet eventually, but for now, he’s still the same player he was in college, preferring regular drives, occasional dunks and shots over slashing, which is something that Iguodala does extremely well.

Iguodala is big, has the shooting ability to hang with most shooting guards in the league and possesses a quick first step off the dribble. When he gets to the rim, his preferred attack, he’s an excellent finisher.  It pretty often leads to jaw-dropping dunks too, something he’s known for. Barnes-Iggy dunk tandem, anyone?

May 16, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry (30) acknowledges the crowd after game six of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs at Oracle Arena. The Spurs defeated the Warriors 94-82. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors still have space to fill, the most glaring need being the acquisition of a back-up center. This would most likely be dealt with by use of their mid-level Exception, which sits at the maximum $5 million this year as a result of not going over the luxury tax last year.

As for that, there are plenty of serviceable big men on the market for a bargain price (though Nazr Mohammed is signed back with the Bulls now). Once they fill that need, this team just became a whole lot scarier.

The Houston Rockets are looking like they will become much more competitive this year with Howard and potentially Josh Smith, the Lakers look like they will fall off and the Utah Jazz, who were fighting for the eighth seed last season, lost Al Jefferson to the Charlotte Bobcats.

The Western Conference is shaking up pretty wildly this offseason, and it’s not over yet. David Lee trades are still a possibility, and the acquisition of Iguodala makes Barnes and Thompson expendable, should another sign-and-trade opportunity arise.

Looking forward, the biggest competition for the Warriors is looking like it will come from the San Antonio Spurs (never count them out, guys), the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Memphis Grizzlies and the Houston Rockets.

Are the Warriors a shoe-in for the Western Conference Finals?  Maybe.  You really never know in this league. But with their offensive firepower and the signing of a massive, offensively skilled defensive stopper, sure makes them a favorite to make it at least that far, and maybe to the Finals. Their shot just got a lot better for a number of years to come.

 

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Tags: Andre Iguodala Dallas Mavericks Denver Nuggets Dwight Howard Golden State Warriors Houston Rockets Los Angeles Clippers Los Angeles Lakers Memphis Grizzlies Minnesota Timberwolves NBA Free Agency Oklahoma City Thunder Portland Trail Blazers San Antonio Spurs Utah Jazz

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