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April 22, 2009
Underrated
Andre Iguodala

by Kevin Pelton

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Andre Iguodala, who hit the biggest shot of his career Sunday to win Game 1 of the Philadelphia 76ers' opening-round playoff series against the Orlando Magic, is hardly a secret within the NBA. Iguodala is the 76ers' go-to guy and leading scorer, and last summer he signed a new contract that will pay him $80 million over the next six seasons. Given all that and season averages of 18.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game, Iguodala seems an unlikely poster boy for the importance of advanced statistics. Yet if Shane Battier is the "No-Stats All-Star," then call Iguodala the "Some-Stats All-Star," for traditional numbers don't quite do justice to what Iguodala has provided the Sixers this season.

The first thing worth noting about Iguodala is his durability. He started all 82 games this season, the fourth time in his five-year career he has done so. Iguodala also quietly led the league by playing just a tick under 40 minutes a night, and he was the only NBA player to see the court for more than 3,200 minutes over the course of the year.

In terms of value to the team, those minutes add up. Like John Hollinger's newly-introduced Value Added and Estimated Wins Added statistics, Basketball Prospectus' exclusive Wins Above Replacement Player system considers how much a player is worth to his team above and beyond the contributions of a replacement-level player. While other players were more impressive when rated on a per-minute basis, Iguodala ended the year with 10.5 WARP, making him one of 20 players around the league worth at least 10 wins above replacement. That's certainly All-Star-caliber production, if not deserving of All-NBA consideration. Yet Iguodala scarcely figured into the discussion for the Eastern Conference All-Star squad.

The other area where Iguodala shines when we look deeply at the statistics is a familiar one: defense. Again, Iguodala has the traditional stats, having averaged 1.6 steals per game to rank 10th in the league. What that fails to capture is Iguodala's ability to contain his own man. According to 82games.com, opposing small forwards averaged 16.5 points per 48 minutes and a .492 effective field-goal percentage against the 76ers when Igudoala was playing the position this season, as compared to 20.2 points per 48 minutes and a .495 eFG for all small forwards in the NBA this season. Basketball Prospectus' defensive statistics also show Iguodala holding opponents 4.7 percent below their normal production--virtually identical to Battier's performance.

Again, Iguodala has been slow in getting recognition for his defense, drawing only a single vote for last year's All-Defensive teams. But using the same methods to adjust plus-minus data that Michael Lewis drew upon in his Battier profile, statistical analysis shows Igudoala to be an elite defender. His defensive adjusted plus-minus last season, as calculated by current Rockets consultant Eli Witus, was tops among wing players. While adjusted numbers are not yet available for this season, Philadelphia allowed 7.4 fewer points per 100 possessions when Iguodala was on the court.

Largely because of his defensive presence, Iguodala has been one of this year's standouts in terms of the adjusted plus-minus calculated by BasketballValue.com, one of seven players in the league worth more than 10 points per 100 possessions to their team. While adjusted plus-minus is notoriously fickle, Iguodala has consistently come out as a valuable contributor. By BasketballValue's two-year method which combines data from the last two seasons to reduce noisiness, Iguodala jumps into the top five amidst impressive company.

Adjusted Plus-Minus Leaders, 2007-08 and 2008-09

Player           Tm   Adj +/-

LeBron James    CLE    +14.5
Chris Paul      NOH    +10.8
Dwyane Wade     MIA    +10.6
Kobe Bryant     LAL    + 8.0
Andre Iguodala  PHI    + 7.9
Lamar Odom      LAL    + 7.8
Tim Duncan      SAS    + 7.7

Iguodala also ranked among the league's top 10 players in adjusted plus-minus during his second season, 2005-06, and has had a positive impact every year of his career.

So if Iguodala has good traditional stats, and his advanced stats are in some ways even better, why hasn't he gotten more attention? It doesn't help that he's part of a crowded group of wing players in the Eastern Conference, with Atlanta's Joe Johnson, Boston's Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, Indiana's Danny Granger, New Jersey's Vince Carter and Orlando's Hedo Turkoglu all vying for whatever attention doesn't go to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

The bigger factor might be this: Iguodala has yet to make an impact on the national stage. There's a natural tendency to doubt the statistics of players on teams .500 or below, an issue Granger has dealt with this season. Other than Granger, the other players in the above group have played for teams that have made noise in the postseason. Even Johnson was in the spotlight when the Hawks took Boston to seven games a year ago. Iguodala's game-winner will go a long way towards raising his profile, and if the 76ers can give Orlando a run or even pull off the upset in this series, he might earn the respect the statistics say he deserves.

Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Kevin by clicking here or click here to see Kevin's other articles.

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