Ten months ago, a major shift was set to take place in the NBA landscape.
Andre Iguodala was about to say goodbye to the Bay Area after his two rings in three seasons with the Warriors to join one of their biggest rivals in the Rockets in a move that would alter the balance of power in the Western Conference and the NBA. Iguodala was going to join Chris Paul to form a formidable threat to the Warriors and their dynasty.
In his final free agency meeting with the Warriors, Iguodala was prepared to say goodbye, but the Warriors turned 180 degrees and offered Iggy the raise he desired. Golden State gave Iguodala a contract that he simply could not refuse and he spurned the Rockets to rejoin the Warriors.
Now with the Conference Finals just days away, the Warriors now face the same Rockets team that Iguodala was about to join in the past offseason. It makes you wonder what might have been if one move in the offseason veered left instead of right.
A huge area of improvement for the Rockets in the offseason was defense, and they addressed that by adding CP3 and hoping to team him up with Iguodala. When Iggy joined the Warriors, the Rockets responded by adding P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute to address their defensive woes from a season ago. It’s a sure bet to say that Tucker would not be a Rocket if Iguodala signed since the money was not there. Tucker’s deal was 4-year, $32 million, the exact deal the Rockets offered Iguodala.
In most statistics, Tucker outplayed Iguodala this season. Shown here is a chart comparing their season stats side-by-side from Hero Sports with Iguodala’s stats in blue and Tucker’s in red:
Tucker was also the only Rocket to play all 82 regular season games and he has been more flexible. Tucker joined the starting lineup late in the season over Ryan Anderson due to his three-point abilities and the success of his three-point shot. Iguodala’s 27 percent from beyond might not have been something that Mike D’Antoni would have preferred to have in the starting lineup over Anderson, who shot 38.6 percent from downtown this season.
Despite not having their original wishes in free agency, the course of events probably worked out better in Houston’s favor. Tucker has emerged as a leader on the team and he has been strong on both ends of the floor this season.
Had Iguodala taken Tucker’s spot in the lineup, it’s arguable that the Rockets would not have had as dominant of a season as they could have. Anderson would probably still be in the starting five, with Iguodala coming off the bench with Eric Gordon, Nene, Gerald Green, and Mbah a Moute. It’s possible that D’Antoni would move Iguodala into the starting lineup and slide Ariza into playing the four, but the three-point offense is not as potent in the starting five of Paul-Harden-Iguodala-Ariza-Capela. At least with Tucker, there are four guys that can shoot the triple as opposed to just three.
If Iguodala signs with the Rockets, it’s quite likely that Tucker stays in Toronto, where he spent the stretch run of last year’s playoffs. In fact, the Raptors offered Tucker the more expensive contract in the offseason but he chose Houston due to CP3 moving there. Maybe if Tucker had stayed, the Raptors would not have gotten swept by the Cavs this past week, and maybe Dwane Casey would still have his job?
Golden State would probably give Kevon Looney more minutes, and maybe give Kevin Durant a little more money. But Iguodala’s replacement could have been someone like C.J. Miles, who replaced Tucker in Toronto.
The Warriors have been better off with Iggy on the defensive end and the Rockets are better off with Tucker on both ends as opposed to Iguodala. Tucker is someone that is a huge part of both the offensive and defensive identity of the Rockets. With Iggy surrounded by Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Durant, he does not need to play as big of a role in the offense as Tucker needs to for Houston.
It goes to show that everything happens for a reason.