NBA AM: With Iguodala, Can Nuggets Contend?
Ever since the Denver Nuggets decided to trade away all-star forward Carmelo Anthony, the previous face of the franchise, in early 2011 head coach George Karl has been adamant that the organization didn’t need a high profile superstar to compete at the highest levels and annually contend.
For Karl, a collection of above-average talented guys working together, all-stars or not, could indeed be successful in today’s NBA – which typically goes against this formula.
For the most part Karl has been right. The Nuggets didn’t miss a beat after the Anthony deal and successfully secured a playoff spot in 2011 and followed that up with another one in the lockout shortened 2012 campaign.
However, the team was also eliminated in the first round during both appearances and it started to clearly show the team needed to add a little more talent and leadership to its roster.
The Nuggets may have found their man in all-star forward Andre Iguodala who was acquired in a four team blockbuster deal last week. Iguodala played this summer with Team USA in the London Olympics, gaining valuable experience while winning a gold medal. In the deal, Denver agreed to trade always improving guard Arron Afflalo and veteran forward Al Harrington, but in Iguodala the team may finally have the piece to get them over the hump post-Anthony.
Nuggets team president Josh Kroenke admitted the team has been targeting Iguodala for years and believes he is the franchise’s missing piece and one of the guys who fits perfectly into Karl’s philosophy.
“Andre is someone we’ve coveted for years,” Kroenke said according to Aaron Lopez of Nuggets.com. “I met him a few years ago, and I had the chance to spend some time with him in London after the trade. His passion and excitement are contagious. He doesn’t care about headlines. He just wants to play ball and win, period. Playground. Olympics. NBA. Alaska.”
Iguodala led the Philadelphia 76ers to the playoffs the past four out of the past five seasons and earned his first all-star selection in 2012. The eight year veteran has been impressed with the Nuggets current collection of talent put together by Kroenke and executive vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri.
“I like the roster that Josh and Masai have assembled,” Iguodala said. “It’s a high-energy group with a lot of athleticism. I’ve played with Andre Miller and know how valuable a player he is. Ty [Lawson] is one of the best young point guards in the league and Danilo [Gallinari] can really stretch the defense with his shooting and can do a lot of other good things offensively. The young bigs like JaVale [McGee], [Kenneth] Faried and [Timofey] Mozgov are all talented guys who will only continue to get better.”
The Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers figure to loom at the top of the Western Conference next season. Both of those teams possess two elite perimeter offensive scorers in Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant, an area where the Nuggets struggled to contain opponents last season and where routinely torched from the wing.
Iguodala is regarded as one of the league’s best perimeter defenders and boasts an all-defensive [second] team nod on his resume.
“To get a player like that, you obviously have to give up a lot,” Kroenke said. “We lost two leaders in Arron and Al, but we feel good headed into the season and added a dimension that’s rare in basketball – an all-star who can do a little bit of everything and doesn’t need to get you 30 points to win.”
Barring injury the Nuggets will head into the 2012-13 season, on paper at least, in a better spot than last year with the addition of Iguodala into the fold. Iguodala will now be playing in the up-tempo free-flowing Western Conference, a chance to get out and run which will undoubtedly help his offense.
“I think my strengths as a player fit in very well with Coach Karl’s system and the way he likes to play,” Iguodala said. “I like a more up-tempo game, and I know this team gets up and down the floor being among the league leaders in scoring and possessions per game last year.”
LeBron James On Run To Become ‘Greatest Ever’ Says Olympic Coach
Without question, Miami HEAT forward LeBron James is currently on one of the best twelve month runs in recent basketball memory. The nine year veteran won his third regular season NBA MVP, first NBA championship and just this past weekend took home his second Olympic gold medal leading Team USA over Spain.
Naturally, when success for an athlete comes in droves like this, the hyperbole usually follows the same path. With his recent play James has clearly established himself as one of his generation’s best, but now there is a growing contingent who believe when it’s all said and done his name will have to be included with the all-time greats.
Longtime Syracuse University men’s basketball head coach Jim Boeheim has become one of James’ biggest fans over the past few years. Boeheim served as an assistant coach for Team USA this summer and feels James could be on a run to become the greatest basketball player ever.
“I’ve always thought Michael Jordan was the best player that I’ve ever seen,” Boeheim told ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd. “I always have and I didn’t think it was close. I’m not so sure any more. And I love Michael Jordan. I’m not so sure anymore. This guy is 6’9 and 260 pounds, and he’s getting better. He works on his game. His shooting is getting better. He’s a phenomenal, phenomenal basketball player. I love this game, I love the history of this game. I know we’ve had great, great players through the years. He’s like Magic Johnson with Michael Jordan-type skills as well.”
Boeheim also served as an assistant for Team USA on the 2008 Olympic gold medal team in Beijing. The veteran sideline general says the work James put into his game over the past four years is staggering and the reason why he feels the 27 year old will go down as one of the game’s all-time greats.
“Ten times better player,” Boeheim said referring to James’ growth as a player over the years. “Some of it is maturity. He’s a leader; he was a kid when we first got him. He’s a 6-9, 260-pound point guard-forward-center. He guarded the post guys. They always say a guy can guard five positions, I’ve never seen that. I’ve heard about it. This guy can guard five guys. He can guard your center, he can guard your small forward, big forward, point guard, two guard. You put him on anybody and he can guard them.”
James will turn 28 in December and is just entering his prime years from an athletic standpoint. There’s still a lot of basketball left to be played which will either enhance or detract from his legacy once he hangs up the laces for good, but one this is for sure if he continues to produce this type of production for the next 6-7 years he’ll likely earn the right to be in the discussion.
Up Close With Tony Parker
UCLA men’s basketball figures to be a mainstay in the Top 25 poll throughout the upcoming season strengthened by their much heralded recruiting class. Arguably at the top of the list is power forward Tony Parker who starred as a prep standout in the Atlanta, Georgia area.
The 6’9 center was rated in the top 30 of this year’s incoming freshman by the majority of scouting services across the country. UCLA struggled to a 19-14 finish last season and wasn’t selected for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid. The need for Parker to become quickly acclimated to the collegiate game cannot be stressed enough.
HOOPSWORLD’s Yannis Koutroupis caught up with Parker recently at the Adidas Nations event in California. Parker spoke about his transition into collegiate basketball, bringing toughness to UCLA’s lineup, the 2013 NBA Draft and the pressure of being a heralded freshman. Check out the exclusive interview below:
NBA Chats: One chat on the schedule for today which will be hosted by yours truly starting at 8pm EST. Send me a question here. You can always find upcoming NBA chats by clicking here. If you are looking for previous chats, click here.