Consensus opinion (correctly) states that Andre Iguodala is one of the best defenders in the NBA. Despite consistently defending the opposing team’s best perimeter player, Iguodala held opposing shooting guards to a PER of 12.7 and small forwards to 9.9 (15.0 is league average), according to 82games.com.
At +3.3 points per 100 possessions, Iguodala had the third-highest defensive Regularize Adjusted Plus-Minus of all perimeter defenders, trailing Tony Allen and, surprisingly, Al-Farouq Aminu. The Denver Nuggets allowed 108.4 points per 100 possessions with Iguodala off the court and only 104.0 with him on.
So what makes Andre Igoudala such a good defender?
Iguodala compliments his incredible athleticism with an elite understanding of angles, rotations and player tendencies. In this interview with CBS Sports, Iguodala reveals the extensive preparation required to attain his level of defensive impact.
Iguodala prepares for individual opponents by researching their tendencies and abilities and understands the nuances of opposing offenses. Per mysynergysports.com, Iguodala excels in isolation defense, allowing 0.58 points per play, 11th best in the league. After spot-ups, the role of help defenders is likely least significant in isolation defense. Thus Iguodala’s proficiency in that regard is likely a testament to his individual ability rather than team impact (for example, David Lee’s high ranking as a pick-and-roll defender can be explained by the Warriors’ commitment to over-helping on Lee’s man in the pick-and-roll).
Much of what makes Iguodala successful as an on-ball defender is his off-ball defense.
From prior research, Iguodala knows from where Carmelo Anthony is dangerous. He realizes Anthony is trying to reach a spot and uses his above-average strength to prevent Anthony from reaching that zone, forcing him further from the basket.
Though Iguodala’s on-ball defense is glorified, a large part of his value is derived from the ability to not just prevent opponents from making shots but to prevent attempts.
As Stephen Curry witnessed during the playoffs, Iguodala’s athleticism and understanding of angles and opposing offenses allows him to effectively deny the ball from his man, and prevent his man from ever reaching a situation where he could create an efficient opportunity.
Look at Iguodala’s defense on Klay Thompson. Thompson has just cut up from the short corner as Jarrett Jack comes around a screen. Iguodala recognizes a common action in the Warriors’ offense and stays in position to deny the pass to Thompson while still being able, aided by his speed and length to step into Jack’s lane to play help defense.
Also, a moment should be taken to appreciate Igoudala’s athleticism. Here, he is comfortable guarding Jack, who already has a head of steam, several feet beyond the three-point line. Igoudala is 6’6’’ with a 6’11’’ wingspan. He is very quick, a trait he combines with excellent footwork to maintain defensive positioning and has the strength to defend nearly any player in the league.
With Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green, the Warriors already had a promising wing defensive core. Add Iguodala, and, along with Andrew Bogut, the Warriors have the makings of an elite defense.