Of course, you have to go easy with these things. Partially because A.I. makes a lot of money. Over $56 million spread out from now until 2014, according to ShamSports.com. But mainly because -- and I apologize for going all general columnist on you -- I don't know if he's that guy. Of course, it's a decade-long bias that has me thinking this way.
There was an NBA preview magazine I remember sneaking glances at between classes, as the months led up to the 1996-97 season. And among the many lines I've stolen and ideologies I've clung to in the years since reading and re-reading that thing, one bit of armchair GM'ing stood out.
San Antonio Spurs All-Star Sean Elliott, the magazine told me, would be better off as a third wheel. Sure, this is easy analysis, but the simplicity got to me. The idea that there were tiers to be acknowledged beyond the two "stars" NBC or ESPN showed you on screen. That things could change, seats could move, and that a pretty good team in San Antonio could be pretty great. Not to be outdone, because Hakeem Olajuwon was ticked or because Dennis Rodman couldn't get along.
And by the time next year's magazine came along, Elliott was that third wheel, behind David Robinson and rookie Tim Duncan(notes). Now while I'm not suggesting that teams break the foot of their franchise center, fire their coach within a month, hire the GM to run the sideline, sign Monty Williams to take copious amounts of shots and bank on breaking the odds on the lottery to acquire a pivotman for the ages, I do suggest a reasonable attribution when it comes to the stylings of stars and semi-stars.
And I'd suggest to Cleveland, a team that is reported to be interested in Iguodala, that it take it easy in trying to bring in a person that a Cleveland-area paper termed "LeBron Lite."
Because LeBron James(notes), full and hearty, couldn't win with this Cavaliers team. And while you'd like to think that LeBron, rich and full of delicious calories, could have won with Cleveland had he not given up on those Cavs last May, it's probably fair to suggest that LeBron made himself "LeBron Lite" as he moped through that Boston series last year. And even in that watered-down state, could you really imagine Andre Iguodala approximating the same results?
Iguodala puts up great stats, and stats are documentation of production gone both good or bad, so it would be foolish to dismiss the way the guy helps a team toward victory. He can score, pass, rebound and do the sorts of athletic things (finishing in transition, grabbing steals and coming up with blocks) that aid a team toward the goal among goals.
But as a go-to guy? Even a second option? He's just not that guy.
Because he shoots. He shoots from far away, and his teams have suffered as a result. Whether it's in the playoffs against the Pistons or the Magic, or this month while Doug Collins gets more and more frustrated. Sure, as Collins pointed out, the defenses tend to "wall up" against Iggy as he prepares to work in an offense that (through no fault of his own) has absolutely no spacing. But we've seen him with spacing and no wall to work through. The guy still shoots.
Which is why he'd do fine as a second option. Quite well. But it's also why he'd do brilliantly, championship-level'y, as a third option.
This doesn't mean that any team trying to acquire Andre (who is working under a top-gear contract that might be more than prohibitive to any team even if he is a first-tier option) should move forward with him in mind as the Elliott to David Robinson's Tim Duncan. It just means he's not going to automatically put anyone over the top. Because even second-tier go-to guys have to have an idea in mind once the play breaks down, things go pear-shaped and the ball ends up in Deborah Kerr's hands.
(She was in a lot of movies in a supporting role. Never mind.)
Sadly for A.I. and the Sixers, the contract that Iguodala signed back in the summer of 2008 -- that seemed just about right to just about everyone -- could prevent the sort of trade needed to make all sides happy. For the 76ers, Andre, and whoever tracks down his services. And even more importantly, should such a trade go through, Iguodala's brand of ball might prove the most frustrating to those whose expectations are stuck way, way too high.
- Doug Collins