For the second time in just over a year, former warrior Andre Iguodala will play against his former team at Chase Center. Iguodala and the Miami Heat will notice a lot of differences in Golden State when teams tip on Wednesday night.
The mere presence of Steph Curry is perhaps the most obvious change, followed by his reappearance as the lead MVP. Obviously, there will also be an absence of fans that Iguodala has afforded during six seasons at Bay Bay, a constant consequence of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
But it should not go unnoticed that one of the players tasked with filling the defensive gap left behind after Iguodale’s departure is enjoying his finest season so far in defense. Andrew Wiggins, who has been replaced by the player (D’Angelo Russell) for whose acquisition the Warriors landed Iguodale’s salary at the Memphis Grizzlies two summers ago, is one of the NBA’s best defenders on the ball this season.
Wiggins improved the Warriors ’defensive presence on the wing, helping Golden State play elite defense for the first time since Iguodala’s departure. That’s not to say Wiggins was a replacement like the other.
The Warriors relied on Iguodal for his versatility in Steve Kerr’s first five seasons as head coach, while the Wiggins were deployed as a stopper on the ball.
“The similarities lie in their athleticism and their length,” Kerr said in a video conference with reporters on Tuesday. “They’re different players. They’re very different.”
Wiggins was by no means a defender in parts of six seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but he became one this season. So far this season, Wiggins keeper’s players have shot 38.5 percent off the field, 53.1 percent within three yards of the basket and 30.0 percent off the 3-point line, according to NBA Advanced Stats.
Each of those ratings would be the lowest for Wiggins ’opponents in one season, and for the first time the players he keeps shooting 7.8, 5.7 and 8.0 percentage points worse from the aforementioned areas than when they were defended by someone else. Iguodala never touched on that difference in the percentage of goals scored with the Warriors.
Still, Iguodala left a mark on Golden State’s defense. The Warriors allowed at least one point less for every 100 possessions with Iguodala on the floor than when he wasn’t in each of his five seasons playing for Kerr, giving nearly eight points less per 100 possessions during Iguodala’s minutes in the 2017-18 season.
This season, the Warriors ’defensive score with Wiggins on the floor (107.8) is slightly worse than when he’s out of it (107.3). The Warriors also extorted a higher percentage of turnover with Iguodal on the floor – as much as 2.4 percentage points more in 2015-16, which Glass Cleaning was defined as in the NBA’s 92nd percentile that season – than they had with Wiggins until now this season. The opponent’s Golden State turnover percentage is almost one percentage point worse with Wiggins on the floor than when it wasn’t.
“Andre was on the defensive more than any job,” Kerr explained. “He kept everything, on or off the ball. It just made sense, like that [Draymond Green], to blow up the property by understanding what was coming when he was on the weak side of the floor. “
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Regardless of the differences in their roles, Wiggins ’performance has helped the Warriors’ defense reach a level not since Iguodala left. The defensive rating of Golden State that entered on Wednesday (109.0) is located exactly somewhere last season in Iguodale with the team (108.6 in 2018-19).
These warriors benefited from Iguodala’s IQ, Shaun Livingston’s length, Klay Thompson’s range of defensive skills, and insidiously good rim protection, while this iteration had to rely on Wiggins, Kent Bazemore, and Juan Toscano-Anderson – among other unsung heroes – – with injured Thompson, Livingston withdrew, and Iguodala and Durant played in the Eastern Conference.
Green remains the centripetal strength of the Warriors ’defense, but it’s not normally a recognizable group from the last time Iguodala wore a Golden State uniform. Wiggins ’role makes a difference, especially since the Warriors’ defense seems to have finally escaped Iguodal’s shadow.
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