Warriors brief: Is 'Playoff Iguodala' a real thing?

Warriors brief: Is 'Playoff Iguodala' a real thing?

The competition between the Rockets and Warriors this season actually started in the summer, when the bidding war started for Andre Iguodala’s services. In the end the Warriors won the prize, though there are reports that it came down to the wire in the end. The winning bid ended up being a three-year deal for $48 million, which was a lot more than many expected going into the offseason (including the Warriors themselves).

After the deal was signed there was a common consensus that the deal and his value would be worth it come playoff time. Many assumed that he would coast through the regular season until then. However, once the season started, and Iguodala did exactly that, it was many of those same people that turned on their own original assumptions and now assumed the worst. The critics started circling like vultures over Iguodala, deciding he had been overpaid and now did not care anymore, that he aged considerably over one offseason and now was just a high-priced spotty bench player that couldn’t hit a three or defend consistently.

Yet to some fans, media, Warriors executives, players and especially Igudodala himself, it was expected with great confidence he would turn it on come April. He missed six of the last seven games of the regular season, but despite that health scare, he was going to be ready to go come playoffs. And he has not disappointed.

Through the first two games of the first round, Iguodala has gone a combined 5-for-7 from deep, and also added 14 rebounds and nine assists. Last season, it took Iguodala 14 games into the playoffs (he played in 13 of them) to finally hit his fifth shot from long range. So the question is: has Iguodala consistently shown in his tenure as a Warrior that he is a new player come playoffs?

In his first year with the Warriors in the 2013-14 season (Mark Jackson’s last year as the head coach) Iguodala played well in the seven game opening round series that the Warriors lost to the Clippers. He finished the seven games averaging 13.1 points on 52 percent shooting from the field and 53 percent shooting from distance, while most importantly playing his elite level defense.

The following season, under Steve Kerr, Iguodala then made the well documented move to the bench as the Warriors’ sixth man. That was also the postseason were the Warriors famously inserted Iguodala into the starting lineup once they were trailing in the Finals, and he went on to capture Finals MVP with his exceptional performance and defense on LeBron James. In total, he finished those playoffs averaging 10.4 points on 47 percent shooting from the field and 35 percent from deep over 21 playoff games. But it was in the Finals that he made his biggest impact statistically, dropping 16.3 points per game on 52 percent overall shooting and a 40 percent clip from three point range.

Yet again, despite losing in the quite controversial Finals series to the Cavaliers, Iguodala performed admirably in the playoffs during the 2015-16 season. He finished the 24 total games averaging nine points per game on 48 percent shooting from the field and 39 percent from deep. These averages were very similar to his regular season numbers of seven points per game, 48 percent field goal percentage and 35 percent on threes.

Finally we come to last season, which was a bit of an aberration statistically for Iguodala since joining the Warriors. He missed his first 18 shots from deep to start the playoffs, and eventually by game 13 of the postseason, he was hitting a measly 3 of 27 shots from long range. He would go on to finish shooting 19 percent from three point range when all was said and done, but his overall 46 percent shooting from the field and his three-to-one assist to turnover ratio was much needed for a Warriors team that dealt with some injuries early on.

Despite this extensive breakdown of Iguodala’s statistics throughout his Warriors playoff career, his true value is not seen in the traditional box score. Iguodala has proven to be a performer that needs to be critiqued qualitatively rather than quantitatively. His defense, leadership, energy and overall basketball I.Q. have been invaluable to the Warriors during his tenure with the team. He is already off to a hot start this postseason, but you should expect nothing less than Playoff Iguodala.

Why Warriors' Steph Curry is 'biggest variable' in 2019-20 NBA season

Why Warriors' Steph Curry is 'biggest variable' in 2019-20 NBA season

The Warriors have been the NBA's model of consistency for half a decade, but things are going to look much different this season.

With Klay Thompson rehabbing from a torn ACL and Kevin Durant doing the same from a ruptured Achilles in a new uniform, Golden State enters coach Steve Kerr's sixth season in an uncertain position. The Warriors still have two-time MVP Stephen Curry, however, and perhaps no player in the league will have a bigger effect on their team's fortunes than Curry. 

"I think the biggest variable in the NBA right now is what that No. 30 does this season," NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh said on NBC Sports' NBA Season Tip-Off Show on Tuesday. "How many games does he play? How much load management is he going to see in the regular season this year and how many games is he going to take off? Because in the preseason, he was on fire." 

As Haberstroh noted, Curry averaged 39.5 points per 36 minutes during the preseason. Haberstroh predicted Curry would win the scoring title in his season preview column, and Curry's preseason total easily would have led NBA players who played at least 1,000 regular-season minutes last season. This preseason provides a small sample size, but Curry was similarly explosive away from Durant in the last three seasons and before he joined the Warriors in the first place. 

"[If Curry's] going to win the scoring title and the Warriors win 50 games, I think he's going to be in the MVP conversation," Haberstroh said. 

[RELATED: How Kawhi, Clippers will give Dubs some Finals déjà vu]

Fifty wins will be a tall task, given how loaded the Western Conference is and how much learning-on-the-fly the Warriors will have to do following an offseason of change. NBC Sports Bay Area Warriors Insider Monte Poole noted that Curry will have to get to know a new backcourt partner in D'Angelo Russell, but he will also have to contend with opposing defenses' undivided focus. 

"I think, when you look at Steph, he's going to get a lot of attention this year," Poole said. "Teams are going to basically say, 'You know what, don't let Steph beat us. Anybody else? Fine. But don't let Steph beat us.'"

Curry undoubtedly is used to the spotlight, but how he responds to a brighter one during his 11th NBA season will determine the Warriors' fortunes in 2019-20. 

Why Clippers' win vs. Lakers should give Warriors NBA Finals déjà vu

Why Clippers' win vs. Lakers should give Warriors NBA Finals déjà vu

The Clippers' acquisitions of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George gave LA's other franchise what arguably is the NBA's most formidable duo.

It turns out the Clippers are quite alright with just one of them in the lineup.

Without George, who is sidelined for about a month after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, the Clippers beat the crosstown rival Lakers 112-102 on the first night of the season Wednesday. The Clippers' win followed a playbook the Warriors know all too well after their NBA Finals loss in June, and it's one they'll surely see again Thursday night at Chase Center in Golden State's season opener.

Leonard led the Clippers with 30 points Tuesday night, and he was the only Clips starter to score in double figures. The reigning NBA Finals MVP was aided by four double-digit scorers off the Clippers' bench, though, as Lou Williams (21 points), Maurice Harkless (17), JaMychal Green (12) and Maurice Harkless (10) all shot at least 50 percent from the field.

Sound familiar? It should, as the Clippers looked a lot like the Toronto Raptors did in a six-game NBA Finals win over the Warriors.

Leonard led the way in June, but he got a lot of help from his former teammates. Five other Raptors scored at least 10 points per game in The Finals, including bench players Fred VanVleet (14.0 points per game) and Serge Ibaka (11.3). Toronto's depth out-shined Golden State's, as only the Warriors' original big three of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green scored in double figures during The Finals.

[RELATED: Kerr clarifies his comments on Klay's ACL recovery timeline]

The Warriors were without Kevin Durant for all but 12 minutes of The Finals, and lacked Thompson down the stretch in Game 6. Golden State will miss both of them Thursday, given Durant's offseason departure for the Brooklyn Nets and Thompson's continued recovery from a torn ACL. D'Angelo Russell was brought in to fill the void, but the Warriors' season opener could look a lot like the end of their last one four months ago. 

Down a star, the Warriors will have to stop Leonard and a very deep supporting cast. He will wear red, white and blue in San Francisco rather than red and black in Oakland, but in the absence of George, Leonard's early Clippers tenure will give the Warriors plenty of déjà vu.