The hunt for 73 has taken yet another hit.
With Andre Iguodala (7.3 points per game) expected to miss at least two weeks due to injury, the Golden State Warriors have a huge void to fill within their roster.
A team lauded for its depth, Golden State will need depth now as much as it ever has in finding a go-to wing defender in clutch situations and supplanting the former All-Star on the closing unit.
Still in search of the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed, and very much in play for a historic 73-win season, should the Warriors hope to keep their high hopes for an already historic season intact, they will need an assortment of reservists to fill “Iggy’s” size 16 Nikes.
Shortly after the news was made public Saturday, head coach Steve Kerr commented on the significance of the injury:
“Andre is so important to everything we do, not only just in terms of schematically, but just emotionally – he settles us down. It’s a big loss.”
The loss came with two minutes left in the third quarter of an eventual 16-point victory over the Portland Trailblazers.
Iguodala rolled his ankle while battling guard Damian Lillard for a loose ball, and though the injury was diagnosed as nothing more than a sprain, according to Kerr, it is a significant sprain.
Prior to Saturday’s game against the Phoenix Suns, the coach gave an idea of his rotational plans, saying that Brandon Rush (4.5 points on 14.8 minutes per game) would be recipient of extended minutes.
It was Leandro Barbosa (6.4 PPG on 15.2 MPG), however, who saw the bulk of the minute increase.
The first game since Iguodalal’s ankle injury, by the only relevant basis of measurement, was a success. Though a victory over the West’s second-worst team is far less encouraging considering the nine-point deficit that had to be overcome in the final quarter.
While Barbosa, as well as guard Shaun Livingston (6.2 PPG on 19.2 MPG), saw an increase in playing time Rush found himself on the court for only eight minutes, the greatest factor being his minus-10 point differential.
The measurable, which has been dominated by the Warriors over the past two seasons, is also where the trio of Golden guards will need to step up — currently playing to a combined plus-1.2 per game. Iguodala, whose plus-439 (plus-7.3 per game) is tops for all NBA reserves, is a mainstay in the NBA’s top 10 in playing to a positive.
The reasoning for his dominant play has to do with his versatility, according to All-Star forward Draymond Green:
“Dre has a huge, huge impact on both ends of the floor. Whether it’s defensively with him being able to guard so many positions, him always in the passing lane disrupting everything and offensively he’s always been that conduit for us.”
The greatest contributing factor for his dominant play is his defensive prowess. A two-time all-defensive player (first team in 2014 and second team in 2011), Iguodala’s 1.2 steals per game is third on the team, behind Green (1.5) and reigning league MVP Stephen Curry (2.1).
Replacing the 2015 Finals MVP’s modest point production, on the other hand, should be the easy part, especially considering the recent re-emergence of Marreese Speights (6.8 PPG on 11.2 MPG). Efficient scoring, though, is much more the concern.
Iguodala’s 48.4 shooting percentage is bested only by Livingston and Curry among all non-centers on the roster. He is also incredibly efficient at finding the open man, and avoiding the opposition, as his 2.9 assist-to-turnover ration is good enough to tie him for 15th-best in the association.
The talent is yet another he shares with Livingston, who is the only Warrior currently boasting a better ratio (3.0).
While the Warriors’ sum of all parts have the defensive, offensive and efficiency abilities to make up for such a massive loss, it is his leadership that may be missed most.
Center Andrew Bogut took to social media to voice his displeasure:
Interesting no one is talking about a wreckless play from this week. Guess its just the "top 5 dirty" players who are capable. #checkthetape
— Andrew Bogut (@andrewbogut) March 13, 2016
Along with Green, the veteran offers leadership and a calming factor. Particularly in late-, close-game situations. A factor that causes Kerr to refer to the 32 year-old as his “security blanket.”
The brain trust of the Warriors will not be given much time to figure out how to move on without that safety net, as they will face a dangerous New Orleans Pelicans (21-41) team on Monday.
Then, what looks like a momentary reprieve in the form of the New York Knicks (28-40) comes knowing that Iguodala will not be available to slow the offensive force that is forward Carmelo Anthony.
By March 18, though, it will be too late to attempt to figure things out, as an all Texas back-to-back will pit Golden State against the Dallas Mavericks (33-33) before a showdown with the San Antonio Spurs (56-10).
Following Saturday’s win, Curry said Iguodala’s absence is something that the team’s depth can help alleviate:
“That’s just something we have to get used to however long he is going to be out. At the end of the day we run the same offense, it’s just one less play maker, ball-handler and a big time defender. We just need our bench to be ready when they get those extended minutes.”