With a new contributor, Roundball Mining Company will likely be doing more 5-on-5 pieces in the coming days. This means more opportunities for you, the reader, to participate by being featured as the fifth analyst in this series of articles, however this can only be achieved by following each of us on Twitter. In our first of many new 5-on-5s we highlight, what else, but the Andre Iguodala trade. T.J. McBride joins us this time around, but don’t let that stop you from posting your answers to these five questions in the comments section below!
1. If you could give Masai Ujiri a letter grade for this trade what would you give him and why?
Charlie: A. The Nuggets improved their team while shedding their worst contract and maintaining salary cap flexibility going forward. As an added bonus, they retain the Nene trade exception and accomplish the secondary goal of clearing a roster spot for Quincy Miller. As with any trade, there’s a risk if things go south but if you’re looking at things objectively, Denver did very well without giving up more than they had to.
Jeremy: B+. I agree with several of those who left comments that the draft picks that were included reduced the value of the deal, although I do not lament the inclusion of the picks as much as most. The protection tied to the 2014 first rounder ensures that, should either the Nuggets or Knicks falter and one of their picks are in the Lottery, Denver will retain that selection as they are required to pass the lower of the two to Orlando. Andre Igoudala is a significant upgrade for the Nuggets and that is what matters.
Denbutsu: A. Ujiri had the guts to make a tough, controversial move that sends out a fan favorite and helps a rival, but also makes Denver better. There is a point of diminishing returns with a deep crop of middling players, and as great a guy as he is, Afflalo never really had the star potential of some of his teammates. So for Denver to cash in a few of its many assets for a veritable All-Star makes a world of sense.
Kalen: B-. I’m not as in love with this trade as many. Is it a bad trade from the Nuggets standpoint? Absolutely not. Anytime you get the best player in a deal you win. Parting with Harrington and a second-round pick means nothing, but Afflalo and a first rounder are two assets I could see becoming more valuable as time passes. Afflalo is the exact type of guy you want want to build your team with (hence, why the Magic wanted him) and I just don’t see why he had to go instead of someone else.
TJ: A+. Many people are saying the Nuggets overpaid for Iguodala but what he provides for this Nuggets team is irreplaceable. This trade adds perimeter defense as well as a defensive-minded star player. He also shot 39.7 percent from behind the arc last year to add another perimeter shooter to the team. Lastly, this trade opened up a spot to sign Quincy Miller and got value for the aging and injury-prone Al Harrington. This trade also opens playing time for Jordan Hamilton as well as the ultra-athletic Anthony Randolph.
2. What’s the most underrated aspect of the trade?
Charlie: Obviously the trade was made with the goal of shoring up the Nuggets biggest weakness: their defense. Although Denver lost a combined 30 points per game from Afflalo and Harrington, the numbers suggest they aren’t likely to be any worse off on offense and may actually improve. Al Harrington was the Nuggets highest usage player despite being one of the least efficient. Iguodala’s efficiency is not drastically worse than Afflalo’s and is mitigated by his ability to be a secondary playmaker, allowing Lawson and Gallinari more opportunities off the ball where both have been effective scorers.
Jeremy: One of the biggest mistakes GMs can make is overvaluing their own players. Arron Afflalo has shown tremendous growth since becoming a Nugget and Al Harrington played a key role in Denver’s success last season. Despite their contributions, Ujiri has proven that he is very pragmatic and is capable of correctly assessing the value of his own players. Most GMs would have clung to Nene, Afflalo and Harrington because they are solid players and keeping them would have been the safe thing to do. Ujiri is willing to take bold action to improve this team and that is significant.
Denbutsu: The potential for Iggy to make a positive offensive impact. The buzz is “defense good/offense bad,” but the pace factor is huge with Denver, second at 96.7, and Philly, (24th) at 91.9, last season. The Nuggets offense is practically custom designed to maximize his strengths in transition scoring and playmaking, and being surrounded on either side by Ty/Dre feeding him and Faried/McGee to lob to should help both he and his teammates score more efficiently.
Kalen: The time it opens up for guys like Chandler, Faried, Hamilton and possibly Randolph. There are only so many minutes Karl can hand out each game. The Nuggets were already suffering a huge logjam at multiple positions. This trade essentially frees up all of Harrington’s 28 minutes per game to go to other guys who deserve a shot to prove themselves.
TJ: Iguodala’s offensive game. It is well published that Iguodala is an elite defender but what gets overlooked is how well he will fit in with the Nuggets offensive scheme. When Iguodala is looked at as a first or second scoring option he flourishes offensively. In the 2007-08 season when the 76ers traded Allen Iverson to the Nuggets, Iguodala averaged 19.9 points per game. Then he followed that season with 18.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game in 2008-09. His situation with the Nuggets is the perfect scenario for his type of play.
3. What’s the most overrated aspect of the trade?
Charlie: The idea the Nuggets willingly ceded a championship to the Lakers. Dwight did not sign an extension as part of the deal and the Nuggets did not somehow coerce him into ridiculous trade demands so they could land Iguodala. Masai took part in a four-team deal that improved his team and furthered the plan for developing a young roster that can contend long-term.
Jeremy: It is easy to expect the Nuggets to be a better defensive team after the addition of Igoudala, but in order to experience significant progress the Nuggets must place an emphasis on team defense that has not been present since their run to the Western Conference Finals in 2009. The Nuggets will continue to struggle on defense even with Igoudala if they do not get back to employing solid team principles.
Denbutsu: The notion that only including Afflalo and Harrington is fine, but adding a future first rounder isn’t worth it. It’s no coincidence that in 2014 the Nuggets just happen to have two firsts and the outgoing pick is the worse of those. The Nuggets currently have a wealth of young players to develop along with their remaining 2013 and 2014 first round picks. Using a pick that would inevitably become trade bait to land a player of Iguodala’s caliber is completely reasonable.
Kalen: How much the Nuggets will improve on defense. I love how, now that he’s gone, people are acting like Afflalo was some kind of mediocre defender. No, his numbers weren’t off the charts, however defense is a team concept and the Nuggets have been atrocious at it lately. According to mySynergySports.com, Afflalo was actually a better isolation defender (which I put a lot of stock into) than Iguodala last year. Having both these players in Denver at the same time would have been the best way to improve on defense.
TJ: The idea that the Nuggets cleared a massive amount of cap space. While the Nuggets did keep their trade exception and drop Al Harrington’s contract, his deal is only half guaranteed and Iguodala replaced Afflalo’s contract on our budget. So while the Nuggets did help their finances, it was not as drastic as most believed it to be.
4. How much does this trade improve the Nuggets?
Charlie: The Nuggets were always dependent on a giant leap forward by someone like Lawson, Gallinari or McGee in order to truly contend and this deal doesn’t change that. What it does, is place a lot less pressure on Denver’s budding young stars while still allowing them room to grow. Iguodala addresses the Nuggets biggest area of need and makes things a bit easier for the coaches in terms of developing guys like Lawson, Gallinari and McGee to the level they need to be.
Jeremy: Denver finished sixth in the West in 2011-12 and lost in the first round of the playoffs. This season they could very well finish sixth and lose in the first round again. That being said, this trade increases their talent level and does so in time for the team to have a full training camp together to prepare for the season. This trade continues the Nuggets on the path of improvement.
Denbutsu: Significantly, eventually. Iggy replacing Afflalo is a clear upgrade, but the real mystery is the frontcourt. Harrington played 64 percent of the Nuggets power forward minutes last season, so how Karl chooses to fill that vacancy is the key. I’m assuming increased minutes for the improving Faried and McGee, with Chandler absorbing most of Harrington and Brewer’s remaining minutes. All of this should help down the line, but early season chemistry may suffer a bit from the changes.
Kalen: The trade itself doesn’t improve the Nuggets significantly. While Iguodala is a definite upgrade over Afflalo, the fact the Nuggets are now opening up more playing time for Hamilton, Faried and Chandler is what matters most. In addition to the Nuggets being one year older, they’ll also have a full training camp and (hopefully) a renewed sense of dedication to defense. All these developments will factor into the Nuggets improving, not just Andre Iguodala.
TJ: This trade improves the Nuggets in every way. Obviously the perimeter defense is greatly improved but there is a lot more than meets the eye incorporated in this trade. Iguodala’s offensive game will catch fire in Denver’s fast-paced style. This deal also clears a roster spot to sign Quincy Miller as well as gives the Nuggets a defensive-minded leader on the team.
5. What part of Iguodala’s game (besides defense) will the Nuggets benefit from most?
Charlie: His playmaking. Iguodala is going to enhance Denver’s transition-based attack and provide much-needed relief when things break down in the half court. He has experience creating for himself and others when the game slows down and players need to execute a real offense. I mentioned it earlier, but he can really help Ty do more things off the ball and maximize his abilities as a scorer. Same for Gallo, who struggles mightily to create his own offense.
Jeremy: I have mentioned it before, but it is his ability to pass. He does not have top-flight floor vision such as LeBron James, but he almost always makes the right decision and has shown some creativity with the ball. He can lead the break and makes very accurate passes on the drive-and-kick to open shooters. His ability to distribute the ball is another area where he will provide a significant upgrade.
Denbutsu: Becoming elite in forcing turnovers and converting them to fast break points. Iguodala was ninth in the league in steals last season with 1.73 per game, while Afflalo was 257th with 0.58. We can expect to see Denver taking the ball away from their opponents more often, and Iggy is an upgrade in both the prowess at transition offense and the athleticism which are crucial to converting those fast break opportunities more effectively.
Kalen: Hands down, his athleticism and ability to force turnovers. The Nuggets are a running team who aim to thrive off their opponent’s turnovers which they then parlay into a fast-break style offense. In order to thrive in this system you need athleticism and quick hands. Iguodala is one of the best players in the league at forcing turnovers and finishing around the rim with authority. He and the Nuggets are a perfect fit.
TJ: Iguodala in George Karl’s offense. While the offensive hit the Nuggets have taken in trading for Iguodala has been well published, I do not agree with this speculation. When he gets put into a faster-paced and more running-style offense he flourishes. He has averaged more than 14 points per game in five of his seven seasons and is also coming off his best 3-point shooting season by shooting 39.7 percent from beyond the arc. He is in the perfect system at the perfect age to become not just an elite defender but an elite scorer as well.
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Kalen was born in Durango, CO, in 1988 and graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2013 with a degree in journalism. He's now an itinerant hoping to travel as much as possible before eventually succumbing to the "real world." Aside from writing Kalen likes movies, music, spicy food and the great outdoors. Edward Abbey is his current idol.