It is less than one week into NBA free agency and Andre Iguodala has chosen to sign with the Golden State Warriors and not return to the Denver Nuggets. This does not come as a total surprise. In fact, letting him go was the smartest thing that the Nuggets could have done. Denver has been down the road of overpaid, defensive-minded players before (Kenyon Martin). While these types of players are nice to have on your roster, they are a luxury that should be reserved for championship contending teams. In other words, those guys cannot be the highest paid players on your team especially as they enter their 30s.
Iguodala was the highest paid player on the Nuggets last season at just under $15 million. He averaged 13 points, 5.4 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game. This is unacceptable. If you are paying a player that much money, he needs to be your go-to player in all aspects. When the game is on the line, you put your trust in those guys. Iguodala is not that guy. He prefers to be in the background, but get paid like a franchise guy. Iggy is not a franchise guy and that is what the Nuggets are wisely saving their money for.
With a reputation of being an elite defender, it is easy to see why Golden State would pay a premium to have him on their roster. Upon closer inspection of Iguodala’s career, one could make the argument that he is not quite the elite defender he is made out to be. For example, Iguodala has never won a Defensive Player of the Year Award, nor has he ever made an NBA All-Defensive First Team. For a guy whose entire reputation is that of an elite defender, he sure lacks the credentials to back up that label. Because of that, the Nuggets balked at overpaying him.
Denver’s front office was wise to not overpay him as he will be 34 years old when his contract expires and will likely not be productive enough to warrant his salary as he ages. Much like Martin, his contract would become an albatross that is impossible to move for a productive asset. The Nuggets cannot afford to mortgage their future flexibility for a short-term gain and they smartly made the tough decision.
The Nuggets have already made three out of the five tough decisions this offseason that I predicted they would need to make and the other two seem to still have a high likelihood of occurring after losing Iguodala. Denver has proven to be bold this offseason and that trend should continue through the rest of free agency.
Many are calling for the Nuggets to make a knee-jerk reaction, such as signing Monta Ellis. This would be a huge mistake for the Nuggets. Head coach Brian Shaw is known as a player development coach. The Nuggets are investing in their young talent and the future of the franchise. Letting Iguodala walk for nothing shows their commitment to that mentality. Evan Fournier will likely start in Iguodala’s place at shooting guard, while Shaw works to develop Fournier, Jordan Hamilton, Erick Green and Quincy Miller. A reactionary acquisition such as Ellis would be counter-productive to the development of the young talent on this team.
Denver fans should feel a sense of relief after Iggy’s departure. The front office believes in the players on this roster and are going to allow this core to continue to develop together. Iguodala was only with the team for one season, therefore he may not have been in their long-term plans from the moment they acquired him.