The Iguodala Overton Window

Rational evaluation of Andre Iguodala's performance for the Philadelphia 76ers, keeping in mind that the Empire never ended.

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Iguodala Trade Scenario Roundup

It’s that time again.  Over the next three weeks, the scratched and warped saucepan that is the Philadelphia sports media promises to boil over nightly with trade buzz concerning the face of the Sixers franchise, Mr. Andre Iguodala. In years past, when the conventional wisdom held that Andre was still a developing talent with elite potential, Sixers fans had been enticed with whispers of trades that would bring us back All-Stars such as Caron Butler, Brandon Roy and even Amaré Stoudamire.  The events of 2010 and 2011 seem to have conspired to tug on the borders of the Overton Window, walking us back gently toward rationality day by day.  Now, it seems, the Sixers may be able to offload #9 for a handful of expiring contracts and perhaps a late first-round rookie or two.

Throughout the years, loyal and reasonable Sixers fans polled by this media outlet indicated that they would have been happy to see the team trade away this thorn in their side in return for just about anything at all. Make it a bulk bag of circus peanuts, a 1999 Ford Focus wagon, a Kohl’s Sonoma Life+Style zip-front twill sweater, a pack of USA Gold Light 100s, an expired SEPTA transfer, a seitan cheesesteak, squashed dogshit or a used condom.  We’d read the news and mob the streets to set off fireworks. However, the league’s arcane trade restrictions specify that only a few dozen scenarios, involving actual NBA players, could bring us the relief that we yearn for.

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Filed under andre iguodala NBA trade deadline 76ers Doug Collins

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An Open Letter to Eric Snow Regarding Andre Iguodala and Louis Williams

Dear Eric,

I hope this letter finds you well.  You and I don’t know one another personally, yet I daresay that I know you quite well, having followed your professional career for over a decade.  I watched Larry Brown pluck you from obscurity and install you as a starter, enlisting you to heave that husky frame up against the opponents’ best scoring guard, night in and night out.  Before long, the sport-obsessed public of Philadelphia came to love you for your tenacity.  As you underwent your inspirational transformation from lightly regarded guard prospect to starter for a perennial playoff team, there I was, looking on.

I was just a young man when you were enjoying some of your best seasons as a Sixer, just another trusting fan.  At first, I barely even noticed your habit of dribbling away the shot clock at the top of the key, while your defender was 10 feet away in the paint doubling Mutombo, or back in the locker room making a sandwich.  I thought nothing of it when, late in the possession, Aaron McKie would reverse the ball to you, wide open from 18 feet, and your man would sprint not toward you, but to the front of the rim, where the big men had established position and strapped on their bright yellow hard hats.

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Filed under eric snow andre iguodala lou williams 76ers Doug Collins

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Sixers vs. Mavs: Business as Usual

This past Friday, tuning in to watch the Sixers play the Mavs, I half expected that I might be granted one last sweet, fleeting vision of life without Andre.  Unfortunately, and much to my chagrin, I soon found out that this loyal company man had made good on his threat to hurry back from his Achilles injury, and he was in the starting lineup, raring to go.

Iguodala was obviously eager to make his presence felt.  On the Sixers’ first offensive possession, he was scarcely able to wait three or four seconds for his teammates to take their positions before he sprinted at Holiday with outstretched arms in his accustomed fashion.  He caught the ball at the top of the key, and noted excitedly that no defender had followed him out to this spot, leaving him wide open to spring high in the air, kick acrobatically and wallop the rim with a high-velocity brick with 15 seconds left on the shot clock.  Tyson Chandler cleaned up the mess, and I was off to grab the laptop and vent my wrath.

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Notes on a Brief Foray Through the Looking-Glass

Those of us who are interested in this year’s Sixers were granted a rare privilege this past week: a glimpse into a whole different universe, an alternate reality in which Andre Iguodala does not exist.  Here at the Window, we stayed glued to the television throughout both games as if they were playoff clinchers.  This may be our best and perhaps only chance to see how this team’s players mesh together and plays off of one another, what kind of offensive strategies the coach has in mind, and generally, how the team might be able to match up with other NBA squads without the traditional monkey wrench buried in its gears.  We can only hope Doug Collins has been watching as attentively as we have.

These two games offered us two thoroughly divergent situations to examine. The Knicks game featured the alternate-reality Sixers against a lousy team that plays no defense and routinely throws away possessions, while the Thunder game pitted them against a hungry, efficient, talented and strategically sound playoff team of the upper echelon.

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Scouting the 2010-11 Sixers Depth Chart: Shooting Guards

Andre Iguodala

What is his offensive game?

Catches the ball at a flat-footed standstill, embarks on a rote series of jab steps and ball fakes that lasts five to ten seconds.  Inevitably finds unfazed defender waiting in front of him, then starts dribbling.  Often opts to shoot extreme fallaway or turnaround jumper off one leg from 20-25 feet.  Otherwise, barges into the teeth of the defense with elbows and knees flying until he can advance no further, then flings the ball into or over outstretched arms in the manner of a bride with a bouquet, or an infantryman with a grenade in his hand and its pin in his teeth.

How will he be used?

It remains to be seen whether or not Doug Collins has the wherewithal to take the ball out of Andre’s hands as a playmaker.  Most likely, old habits will die hard, and Iguodala will shoot 10 to 15 jumpers a game from deep, resulting in roughly 6 points, 8 long rebounds that kick off opposing fast breaks, and possibly the first ever bent rim or shattered backboard to occur on a play during which no player attempts to dunk. He will also attempt to isolate himself and dribble drive, hoping to earn layups and free throws, and receiving instead negative feedback regarding his effectiveness.

Can he knock down open shots and spread the floor for post players?

No.

Can he create his own shot?

In a manner of speaking, yes, much as a todder can create sculpture, if you count squashed balls of clay bearing the imprint of a tiny hand as sculpture.

Can he do his part in a defensive system?

A grizzled, physical defender who is not afraid to get up into his man’s uniform, deny the ball and/or prevent penetration.  Fast enough to get back on the fast break. Helps teammates intelligently.  Jumps well enough to contest most guards’ shots. Gambles for steals and overplays, biting on feints, at times, but not to glaring excess.

How good can he be?

Unorthodox, intermittently effective fourth or fifth option on offense a la Shawn Marion or young Larry Hughes, if he were to forego all jump shots and limit dribbles to 2 per possession with no exceptions.  Could top out at 12-14 PPG with 50+ FG% if ever he were convinced to set picks, cut to the basket when left alone on the perimeter, and look to score only on breakaways, putbacks and uncontested layups.  Effective featured defender against elite 2s and 3s.

Can he hurt the team?

Matched only by Derrick Rose and Monta Ellis in potential to render a team’s offense ineffective singlehandedly.  Earns three times the salary he deserves, takes playing time away from Turner and shots away from Holiday, Young, etc, comes up ultra-small at the end of games yet demands the ball during decisive possessions.  The league’s most potent saboteur.

Evan Turner

Turner was analyzed at length in the previous post, but figures to see just as much time at the 2 as at the 1…

Can he knock down open shots and spread the floor for post players?

Has yet to make an impression in this regard; will be left open to shoot midrange jumpers all year long unless he establishes himself as a threat to hit these consistently.

Can he create his own shot?

Seems to have a good arsenal of moves toward the basket.  Likely to be unreliable when shooting off the dribble.

Jodie Meeks

What is his offensive game?

Spot-up perimeter shooter with a sliver of ability to finish in the lane.

How will he be used?

Primary or secondary offensive option in garbage time.

Can he knock down open shots and space the floor for post players?

This is said to be his stock in trade, but so far in his NBA career he has been ineffective.

Can he create his own shot?

In college, he shot well off the dribble, but NBA defenders may be too athletic and skilled for him to be of much use in this capacity.

Can he do his part in a defensive system?

He’s all right, as far as I know.

How good can he be?

No worse than Willie Green!

Can he hurt the team?

I will be shocked if he averages 5 minutes per game; no.

Next: Small forwards

Be advised, The Window will be engaging in occasional Twitter commentary and/or live blogging of televised games on certain weeknights, so stay tuned.

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Scouting the 2010-11 Sixers Depth Chart: Point Guards

Today, The Iguodala Overton Window returns, with a heart full of warm congratulations for its namesake, not only for the stoic, team-oriented restraint he showed on court for the FIBA champs, but also the McNabbulously economical literary style exhibited in the course of his sideline in regional sports journalism.

There were no words that could describe last year’s Sixers season, and as such, chronicling it was left to those who don’t know any words (all Sixers bloggers other than ourselves).  However, this year, we intend to stick it out from preseason all the way through to the valiant first-round dismissal at the hands of the Bucks.

Today’s idle browsing brought us as good an occasion as any for brushing off the cobwebs and opening up the Window yet again.  Tom Sunnergren at Philadunkia got a nice link yesterday in TrueHoop’s Monday Bullets to his interview with Rod Thorn, annotated with his strongly opinionated analysis, in which he cast aspersions on Sixers deserving and innocent alike.

By way of rather oblique reply, we’ve decided to run through the depth chart of this year’s team, asking and answering position-appropriate questions about each player we expect to see the court in that position.  This is our way of helping you and your loved ones to establish some realistic expectations for what we’ll be seeing on the court this year.

And perhaps, in the process, we might even aid in preventing someone from snarling out any further pissy bullshit about any Hall of Famers in the making who might happen to be wearing numbers such as 21.

Without further ado, here are your 2010-11 Sixers

POINT GUARDS:

Jrue Holiday


What is his offensive game?  Excels at getting by a man-to-man defender in the halfcourt, driving to draw help and setting up easy chances for post players.  Also cuts brilliantly off the ball to find open space for his jump shot.  Capable of keeping his man honest by shooting off the dribble.  Can run a good fast break as well.

How will he be used? Doug Collins is over the moon with Holiday, envisioning the best-case scenario as an offense that runs exclusively through him as the starting point.  Lock to play 30+ minutes a game, excelling at pick-and-roll with Brand and Speights, and shooting from the top of the key or the corners off drive-and-kick.

Can he handle the ball responsibly and create shots for others?  Even as a rookie, it appeared that these tasks were second nature to him.

Can he shoot?  So far, so good; he had a great jumper for most of last year, especially when wide open, extending well into three-point range.

Can he do his part in a defensive system?  Yes, if he shows reasonable progress.  Elite speed and quickness, great innate court awareness, growing pro experience and familiarity with the opposition.  Was a liability at times last year (unsurprisingly, as he was a 19-year-old rookie).

How good can he be?  Could be regarded as a top 10 PG by mid-year if he sticks to what works.  Unlimited potential in the long term.

Can he hurt the team?  He cannot, unless he somehow bulks up inadvisably and screws up his coordination, or reverts to non-confident shooting.

Lou Williams

What is his offensive game?  Attacks the basket with uncreative straight-line explosion in the halfcourt, tries to draw fouls.  More effective in transition.  Good free-throw shooter.  Can finish creatively at the rim, but forces the issue too often.  Executes basic setups for teammates when handling the ball.  Can be dared to shoot flat jumpers.

How will he be used?  20 to 25 minutes a game as a backup combo guard.  Will run the offense in relief of Holiday, driving and kicking, and serve as main scoring option on the occasional possession.  Will defend smaller guards.

Can he handle the ball responsibly and create shots for others?  Managed to do so at replacement level last year.  Very little instinctive ability to create for others, but can be trusted not to boot the ball out of bounds.

Can he shoot?  No.  Setting him up for a jumper is a waste of a possession.  He can miss 5 in a row at the slightest provocation.  Abysmal when shooting off the dribble.

Can he do his part in a defensive system?  Yes, stays home, usually holds up well at the point of the attack and helps teammates intelligently.

How good can he be?  League-average backup.  Has a few unique gifts that stubbornly refuse to cohere into a repertoire.  May have missed his calling as a Pro Bowl cornerback.

Can he hurt the team?  No, as long as Collins has the common sense to play him against opposing reserves, spelling a better player for short stretches.  If he plays too much or is featured in the offense, he is bound to ruin momentum through tunnel-vision possessions and bricked shots.

Evan Turner

What is his offensive game?  Uses tactical guile to create space for midrange shots.  Drives to the basket against smaller defenders.  Draws help defense to free up post players, advanced at reading screens and cuts to break down defensive systems, open up shots for self and teammates.  Uses both hands and a wide variety of techniques, keeps defenders off balance.  Crashes the offensive glass.

How will he be used?  Backing up the 1, 2 and 3 to start the season, possibly taking away minutes from incumbents if the results are acceptable.  Will shoot jumpers, create for teammates, defend primary options and rebound.

Can he shoot?  The Sixers’ brass think so.  I expect him to struggle greatly to adapt to NBA defenders’ athleticism, miss a ton of shots, and experience a great deal of rookie frustration.  In short, not yet.

Can he do his part in a defensive system?  Exceptionally capable and aware, by all accounts.  Will be abused by elite 2s and 3s at times by means of superior athleticism.  May be highly useful on the defensive glass.

How good can he be?  As a young player, the pre-draft comparisons to Grant Hill will prove to have been absurd; how about Carlos Delfino?  In the long term, Shane Battier with a far superior one-on-one game.

Can he hurt the team?  Oh my, yes.  If, at the beginning of the season, he finds himself overmatched or miscast in a featured role, it will be necessary to put him near the end of the bench to watch and learn.  This offense will only be able to bear one 6’6” slab of dead weight at a time, at the very maximum.

Coming later this week: Shooting Guards and Small Forwards!

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FreeDarko’s Bethlehem Shoals takes a crack at a lofty essay on Allen Iverson.

Let’s see, what does he have to say?

The days are not good for Allen Iverson. The one-time beacon of personal integrity, triumphal dysfunction, and “fuck the world” stylistic rights currently sits out in the cold. He’s hoping some team will look past his recent disappointments, figure several accelerated half-lives have made his legacy less radioactive, and give him a chance to make a roster like a blaxploitation Kevin Costner character. So perhaps now is not the time to launch an entirely new critique of AI.”

Right. Allen Iverson was a beacon of personal integrity, just as Richard Nixon was an advocate for pot-smoking hippies.  Well, I’ll give this to you: if personal integrity is defined as being perfectly stubborn and obdurate, never giving in an inch to anyone about how it’s going to be with regard to any matter at all, Allen is a beacon of high altitude and candlepower.  The only other people I know who can compete with Allen in that respect are infant children.

What’s left Iverson out in the cold is that his insistence on playing dysfunctional “fuck the world” basketball, and the toll he’s taken on his recent teams when he’s been on the court.  Let’s take the case of Donald Sterling, for example.  Donald is tempted to exploit (blaxploit? oh, FreeDarko!) the fact that Iverson is a god of two generations of NBA fans and sell some Clippers tickets.  He’s considering pulling rank on Dunleavy and telling him to make it work.  Dunleavy is about to shit his pants, but then he calls up George Karl and asks George to call Sterling and tell him about what Iverson did for the Nuggets.  Sterling is later seen shuffling down the hallway clutching his belly, discomplected beneath his tan.  Not a word of Iverson the Clipper is ever heard again.

However, the rise of Twitter has me rethinking that foundation of Iverson’s NBA being: his authenticity. Allen Iverson, above all else, was his own man, did what he wanted, and forced the world to accept him on this own terms. This was where he picked up momentum as a hip-hop icon, which is to say, while others screamed “thug”, he simply brushed them off as ignorant or sheltered. There’s a tendency, even a need, to separate AI the world-historical figure from AI the athletic performer. In both cases, however, Iverson exemplified “realness”—perhaps to a pathological degree, but nonetheless in a way that informed the direction of the league and the players who came up idolizing him as much as Jordan.”

I don’t even know what most of this is supposed to mean, or what the fuck Twitter has to do with it, but the author is obviously vacillating on the question of whether or not “realness” can be a positive quality for an athlete in basketball.  No shame in that; I don’t think “realness” has ever been of benefit to a player in any team sport.  But aside from Marbury, who is up there with Dutch Daulton in the pantheon of walking joke burnout athletes, no one has ever been more grossly handicapped by authentic triumphal insistent “realness” (integrity) than Allen Iverson.  Though the author is correct in his assertion that Allen “informed the direction of” a ton of egotistical and bizarre behavior, including that of the “New Jordan” himself,  I don’t think we’ll ever see another player take it to Iverson’s level of constant defiance, complaint and spite, or make such a mess of things in service of this attitude.

"Hence, as much as we speak of the post-Jordan days, I myself had become accustomed to the "post-Iverson" age. In this (gulp) dialectic, there seemed to always be a hard edge, or uncompromising bluntness, to be reckoned with. There was Jordan’s universal appeal, met head-on by Iverson’s populist bluster. The players spat out of this maelstrom were some combination of the two; Allen Iverson came to symbolize a mish-mash of unapologetic ghetto roots, "wrong way" ball, not taking shit from no one, and a wary intelligence that could often be its own worst enemy. Carmelo Anthony, post-Iverson because he was hood plus Magic Johnson’s effervescent charm; Gilbert Arenas, idiosyncratic and disruptive as a player and person, but writing his own script with all the whimsy of a Saturday morning cartoon.

Jordan was a sales pitch, Iverson a doctrine. Except that, at the risk of offending a bunch of people, Iverson’s persona was itself a posture. This may sound pedestrian, or simplistic, but at what point did we decide that Iverson (or Tupac) wasn’t, to some degree, faking it, putting it on, selling us a bill of goods based around a very deliberate refusal to play by the rules? AI was certainly faced with difficult circumstances, and had to make tough decisions about what path to follow. And yet over the long haul, it became as opaque a guise as Jordan’s Sphinx-like mask. They may have been polar opposites, but their inflexibility and predictability ultimately made them two sides of the same coin.

The reason we are in “Post-Iverson” days already while he is still in his early 30s is that Allen’s preference for shooting contested fallaway jumpers instead of continuing the offense has finally peaked off the charts and rendered him mostly useless in his past few years of play.  The Iverson Doctrine was “Don’t believe that anyone other than yourself can be trusted to help you accomplish your goals.”  This is a doctrine that makes for shitty basketball.  The difference between Iverson and Tupac is that Iverson was successful for a long time in spite of his flippant grudge against everybody but himself, and Tupac might be alive and well and still dancing around in a bathrobe if he hadn’t styled himself an exaggerated sociopathic villain, but he’d have never been rich, famous and beloved like Iverson.

It looks like the author is making abstract gestures at the idea that Iverson’s chosen persona of antipathy toward his teams and “the rules” detracted from his effectiveness and spoiled his relationships with teammates, coaches and fans.  I agree.  Though most of us Philadelphia fans used to forgive him the next time he’d score 30 points.  And of course he wasn’t all bad, either, but this is an essay about why he’s out of a job.

"Should we bemoan the fact that, in the age of Twitter, authenticity is no longer about any iteration of “the struggle,” or truce between the two sides, but the possibility that individual athletes be both accessible and undeniably themselves? The stakes may have been lowered, and yet better a feed like Rudy Gay’s inform our sense of athlete “realness” than AI’s on-message scowl. Relaxation on its own is empty, taking a stand indefinitely is its own kind of blandness.


Incidentally, anyone who’s seen Iverson in the locker room, or otherwise with his guard down, knows that dude would be a monster on Twitter.”


I don’t know what his point is about Twitter and as far as I am concerned it has as much to do with Iverson’s fallen state as does the price of Indonesian bananas, but I guess he might be saying that  these days, any echo of the defiant “struggle” of Iverson and Tupac now has to be muted by NBA star players, in service of Twitter accessibility.  Well, he shoulda said so, if that’s what he meant.

And no, we shouldn’t bemoan that, because the fact that maniacal gunner gangstas don’t carry teams to championships has been set in stone, now, and teams that pass and cut and shoot open shots keep winning the Finals.  Let’s be grateful.  Let’s hope LeBron isn’t going to try to bring it back, fuck the world and do it his own way, or whatever, though that would be very entertaining to watch.

Filed under sixers iverson freedarko integrity

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David Thorpe never fails to get me thinking.

"Few things bother me more than when players elect to shoot fadaways with time on the clock. From the perimeter." -David Thorpe’s Twitter

I haven’t been on an organized basketball team since eighth grade, but it’s amazing what you can learn from watching the pros and playing pickup.  When I talk about general principles of basketball, I’m mainly speaking of patterns I’ve noticed in professional basketball that also seem to scale and hold true even all the way down to the level of the pickup games I’ve played in.

Here’s an observation I’ve found to hold true in almost all cases.  If there’s a guy on the other team who nobody on your team can guard effectively, and the rest of the offense does even a half-decent job of getting him the ball, it is likely that your team is going to lose.  This goes for all levels of play.  Of course, if they can’t guard one of your teammates, this advantage can be cancelled out.  (Since we’re mainly concerned with the Sixers here, so we don’t have to worry about this consideration very often.)

The time-honored method of getting the ball out of the hands of an opponent you cannot defend effectively is to send a help defender at him.  In professional basketball, if you have to double a guy to keep him from scoring, you can count on your opponents having practiced for thousands of hours at hundreds of ways they can exploit this necessity, and the automatic disadvantage that your team incurs is significant.  (In pickup, it usually works like a charm and encourages forced shots and turnovers, because so few people have any clue what the other four guys are there for.)

Another classic way to prevent someone who can’t be guarded one-on-one from beating your team singlehandedly is to keep a shot blocking big man handy.  If the guy who keeps shaking his defender can’t get a shot off near the rim, and can use his advantage only to create open midrange jumpers and threes for himself, he’s not nearly as likely to take over a game.  If, when he’s driving past his defender, you can force clean blocks and other turnovers instead of fouling him, you’ve accounted for him just fine and you can start to feel optimistic about your chances.

There just aren’t all that many players who can truly make a defender pay for allowing them to shoot jumpers.  An infinite number of combinations of various reasons makes this the case, depending on the player in question, but there is something to the idea that because so many NBA players are swollen and bound with muscle throughout their upper bodies, no amount of coaching and practice can truly ensure that their jump shot is automatic in-game.  The mind can perfect its calculations all it likes, and sync them up just so with the various body parts until the unmolested practice shot is reliably perfect.  In a game, however, when these calculations have to be accessed and adjusted on the fly, for a player whose limbs and body are encased in unnatural bulk and strung together at unnatural tension, the possibility of “automatic” success is lost.  Something intrinsic to the way the mind works renders it unable to account for hypertrophy in the body it directs, when carrying out precise maneuvers such as a jump shot.

So, even a great player is far less likely to beat you if you can take away his dunks and layups, especially if he’s not a truly premier shooter or his shot’s not falling very well at a particular time.  But what if he can shoot?  Or, what if he’s, you know, streaky, and his luck has been up to the task so far?  If nobody can guard him, and you can’t just let him shoot jumpers and crash the boards, what else can you do?

Guarding each opponent effectively will always be the best way to get stops on defense, but if you can’t do that, it’s time to start guarding a bad player ineffectively.  Even an opponent who no one can seem to stop, and who just won’t miss, will not beat you if you can keep the ball away from him.  The easiest and most reliable way of doing so is to look at his teammates and pick out the one who seems most likely to exhibit hubris, and exploit his ego.

Manipulating the big ego of a stupid player is simple, yet highly nuanced, as is the process of identifying the stupid player in question.  If we’re talking about a veteran, or even someone who went to an American university, it ought to be obvious by this point whether or not he can shoot.  What we’re looking for is a guy who can’t shoot, but who wants to be perceived as a good shooter.

Certain players act as if it’s never occurred to them that a defender might be conceding them a certain shot for good reason.  The Sixers roster is filled to the point of bursting with such players: Sam Dalembert, Lou Williams, the amazing Willie Green and the scintillatingly incomparable Andre Igoudala himself are just the tip of the iceberg.  When the Sixers play a good team, with a good coach, this observant spectator can’t help but marvel at how many possessions are wasted in the following manner: the ball stops at a stupid Sixers player, this player is baited into bricking a shot he shouldn’t have taken, and the race to the opposite basket is on.

A player who is comfortable with his attributes and detriments makes a poor target for this kind of tactic.  For instance, Andre Miller is dared to shoot on every offensive possession he’s involved in.  He shoots jumpers just often enough to keep his pump fake credible; even then, he usually waits until he has two men under the basket to chase the probable miss.  He doesn’t mind being regarded as a guy who can’t make a jumper reliably, and he doesn’t take it personally when he is left open.  He won’t be baited.  As a result, when the ball goes to Andre Miller, the offensive possession rarely hurtles to an immediate and ignoble death.  So, you can’t always screw up a team’s offense by sagging off the worst shooter and daring him to punish you.  He might just drive and pass the ball to someone who can.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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There’s only so much you can do to “coach up” a great athlete into a great player.

There’s only so much you can do to “coach up” a great athlete into a great player.