Until the recent nine game win streak, the Warriors had been inconsistent. Many pundits picked the Warriors as a dark horse Western Conference Finals team, but they hadn’t met those expectations until the return of Andre Iguodala from injury.
Iguodala missed 12 games from late November into mid-December. In those games the Warriors went 5-7, certainly not a record one would associate with a conference favorite. If one destructive argument could be made in response to the Warriors offseason moves it would be that they lost depth by losing Jarrett Jack (who should have been sixth man of the year in my opinion) and Carl Landry (who’s been hurt all season anyway. Theoretically these pieces were replaced by the acquisition of Iquodala and the pick-ups of big men Marresse Speights and Jermaine O’Neal and point guard Toney Douglas. Unfortunately, only Iguodala has had any real impact compared with the injuries or just poor performance of the other acquisitions. Igoudala’s addition would push Harrison Barnes (who started as a rookie) to the bench and the idea was that the depth would be retained. Instead, Iguodala got hurt, Barnes was starting again and the Warriors LACK of depth was revealed. If you follow the principle of trickle-down economics, the economy in this case would be bad.
But it’s more than just providing a quality starter; Iguodala is essentially the backup point guard. He’s having a good shooting season (hitting 47% off his 3.4 attempts from three) but he’s not a shooter or scorer in the way that Steph Curry, Klay Thompson or David Lee are, he doesn’t have to be. He scores when he needs to, but he is mostly a playmaker, which suites this team terrifically. Perhaps his biggest impact has been on the defensive end. I didn’t forget about Andrew Bogut, who’s been great at clogging up the middle, but it’s Iguodala that guards the opposing team’s best perimeter player, who uses his wing span to bother passes, who causes havoc with his pressure and most importantly, who sets the defensive tone.
Almost unimaginably the Warriors offense, in terms of offensive rating, is neither a top five nor even a top ten team. In fact, as of January 9th, 2014 they are ranked 13th (11th in ‘12-’13). What is surprising, or maybe not to those that follow the Warriors closely, is that they are ranked 3rd(!) in defensive efficiency, up from 14th last season. This is a huge jump, and it’s really been from adding one player, Iguodala (and more Bogut).
At 24-14 the Warriors have a ways to go, and like most elite teams, the health of their starters will determine how far they progress in the playoffs, but Iguodala looks to have improved the Warriors where their biggest weakness was, defense. The attitude he brings is perfect for a team that, two seasons ago was ranked 27th in defensive efficiency and now have that edge, that approach that will help them win tough games.