Iguodala Trade Gamble Paying Off
Trading away a team’s longest-tenured player, especially one at the caliber of Andre Iguodala, is never a popular or easy decision. It is also something of a gamble. Over the span of eight seasons, as a centerpiece for the Philadelphia 76ers, Iguodala was a solid scorer and elite perimeter defender. He not only established himself as an excellent all-around player, but also as an All-Star.
Despite surprising most NBA fans this past postseason by advancing to the Eastern Conference Semifinals and taking the Boston Celtics to the brink in seven games, the Sixers’ brass decided to make a splash this summer. With the enticing opportunity to acquire a young, seven-foot starting center in Andrew Bynum, Philadelphia pulled the trigger and sent Iguodala to the Denver Nuggets in a blockbuster three-team trade in August.
Even though Bynum hasn’t played in a single contest for the 76ers, the team has hung tough this season thanks largely to the player who has replaced Iguodala in the starting lineup: Evan Turner.
“We knew when we made the deal we were giving up a lot of defense on the perimeter,” 76ers head coach Doug Collins said. “We were hoping that with a presence inside that maybe that would cover for some of those things, that we could play through the post a bit and we’ve yet to see that so we don’t know.
“[But] Evan is doing great, he’s made a big jump,” Collins continued. “I always felt the third year for a player is a big year. If you go back and look at that third year, usually if guys are going to make a big jump – really take that next step in the hierarchy of the league – a lot of times it’s that third year and Evan has done great. Arguably, he’s one of the best rebounders at his position in the NBA.”
For the first time in his young NBA career, Turner is a full-time starter and the 24-year-old says he believes emerging from Iguodala’s immense shadow has been a huge factor in his development.
“It’s just helped me grow,” Turner told HOOPSWORLD. “I think the key point in growing is having to make mistakes and learn from them and I think that has helped me the most this year. Sitting behind [Iguodala], I learned a lot from him and everything but there is nothing like playing and getting your hands dirty.”
Through 26 games this season, Turner is averaging career-highs in virtually every statistical category and has nearly doubled his point production from last season’s 9.4 points per game to 15.1 points this year, which is second-best on the team. As the season continues to unfold, Evans believes the exposure and experience he’s picking up on a daily basis will pay dividends as Philadelphia hopes to make a postseason run down the stretch.
“It’s huge,” Turner said. “I think that’s what’s been helping me grow this whole year. I think it’s only going to get better and better. We are like 20 or so games in; I will be a different player by game 40 and game 60 and game 80 and hopefully the playoffs.”
Five-straight losses for Philadelphia have negated what was a very promising start to the season, although the Sixers find themselves just one-and-a-half games out of the playoffs with a 12-14 record. Still, despite the season-worst skid, not many fans thought this team could be in the mix with Iguodala in Denver and with Bynum still on the mend.
“I just think we got good people and players who understand basketball,” Turner said. “Sometimes people that write about that negative stuff don’t know what they are talking about. We’ve just been trying to grow together and make the most of what we have.
“Andrew has never played for the Sixers before so it’s not like we know what we are missing, so that’s it.”
Even though Turner is keenly toting the company line, there’s no doubt that if this 76ers team truly wants to contend they’re going to need their seven-foot, 25-year old, double-double monster back in the lineup. Gearing up for his return, Coach Collins and the Sixers continue to try to get on the same page to try to guide Bynum’s return at some point this season to go as smoothly as possible.
“I mean, it’s key,” Turner said. “I think everybody should be on the same page, especially when you play something such as basketball – so many games are up and down. You just have to make sure you have your teammate’s back and you have an understanding with your coaches and you just keep getting better.”
When Bynum returns, Turner says he believes Philadelphia has the pieces to be legit contenders in the Eastern Conference.
“For sure, I think so,” Turner said. “As long as we get the right pieces together and you know basketball anybody can beat anybody on any day. We just have to get our defense right; I think we can score with anybody.”
It’s still very early but Turner is making the Sixers’ decision to let Iguodala go and put their hopes into the 24-year-old look awfully timely and intelligent. Who knows, maybe a healthy Bynum returning for the stretch run could propel Philadelphia to being one of the beast’s in the East.
In speaking with Turner, his confidence suggests that may be a more realistic goal than many outside of the 76ers’ locker room are giving this team credit to accomplish.