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Andre Iguodala a riskier free agent than meets the eye

Jun 30, 2013, 8:30 PM EDT

Phoenix Suns v Denver Nuggets Getty Images

Which of these players would you have most liked on your team last season: Andres Nocioni, Baron Davis, Brendan Haywood, Charlie Bell, Chris Mihm, Corey Maggette, Damien Wilkins, Earl Watson, Elton Brand, Fred Jones, Hedo Turkoglu, Joel Przybilla, John Salmons, Lamar Odom, Mehmet Okur, Metta World Peace, Michael Redd, Rashard Lewis, Rasual Butler, Ricky Davis, Ronald Murray, Stromile Swift, Tracy McGrady, Trenton Hassell or Walter Herrmann?

It’s hardly an inspiring list. World Peace was an alright starter for the Lakers. Brand took a lesser role with the Mavericks, and though his production slipped from previous years, it was still pretty good. Lamar Odom fit in well as a Clippers backup. Otherwise, the list is comprised of bit players or guys out of the NBA.

But all those players have something in common. They were 29 years old during the 2008-09 season. Four years later, they’re not nearly as appealing.

It’s a lesson to keep in mind as teams pursue Andre Iguodala, who opted out of the final year of a contract that would have paid him more than $16 million in order to seek a long-term deal.

Iguodala is an excellent defender and great in transition, two skills that typically don’t age well. He’s a good passer and a passable shooter, so it’s unlikely he’ll completely fall off the map, but any team pursuing him won’t be doing it for his passing and shooting.

A larger sample provides a reasonable expectation for Iguodala. Between the 1999-00 and 2008-09 seasons, 274 players have played a season at 29 years old. Here’s how their production, as measured by win shares, progressed from their 29-year-old seasons into the four following (adjusting for the lockout shortened 2011-12 season):

image

If Iguodala declines at the same rate – and the cracks already began to show last season, when his win-share total fell to 5.6 – his production will mirror, in order, the 2012-13 production of Tony Allen then Corey Brewer then Wayne Ellington then Evan Turner during the next four years. These aren’t stylistic comparisons, just using current players to set a comparison in production only.

Of course, this method for determining expected value includes players who fell out of the NBA counting as zero, but that’s intentional. Quite often, players can no longer play at an NBA level as they get into their 30s. We see the players like Steve Nash who defy age and remember them, forgetting about players like Chris Mihm who fall by the wayside. That inaccurately shifts our perception of how big a deal age is in the NBA.

I don’t expect Iguodala to fall out of the league before his next contract ends, even if it lasts four years, because he’d be beginning the deal with a higher starting point. But the relative decline of lesser players still informs an expected track for Iguodala.

Iguodala has plenty of value, and a team looking to win right now might knowingly accept the risk of his contract becoming an albatross just to get his immediate production. But teams should enter long-term negotiations with that risk in mind.

  1. htownred34 - Jun 30, 2013 at 8:44 PM

    As long as iggy doesn’t suffer any serious injury he should be fine, most of those guys weren’t very good in the first place or suffered injuries…

  2. nycalldayz - Jun 30, 2013 at 8:45 PM

    Despite your stats and numbers most teams would take Iguodala.

  3. fm31970 - Jun 30, 2013 at 9:02 PM

    You probably just made Stromile Swift’s day…maybe his year.

    The only guy I see missing is Robert Swift.

  4. JHathwell - Jun 30, 2013 at 9:08 PM

    I figured anyone paying attention already knows that a player his age who relies so heavily on his athleticism is pretty much a “do not buy”.

  5. xxakshunxx - Jun 30, 2013 at 9:57 PM

    Iggy would be a great role player.. 3rd option on a team and he would be perfect, but when he’s counted on too much that’s when he gets into trouble

  6. casualcommenter - Jun 30, 2013 at 10:12 PM

    This is more of a general “buyer beware” for 29 year olds than Iguodala specifically.

    But I do agree – between age 29 and 33 is when most athletic wings either transition to more “old-man game” meaning more post-ups and jump shots (see MJ, Kobe, etc.) or suffer a big drop off in production.

    Signing Iguodala to a big 4-year deal is placing a bet that he’ll stay in great shape and work on improving his jumper. I think that’s a safe bet.

  7. jaerba - Jun 30, 2013 at 11:15 PM

    TBH, I think it’s exactly what meets the eye. :P

    Even if Iggy’s athleticism doesn’t deteriorate (which it probably will), how many teams really think he’s worth his max salary?

  8. rickycubane - Jul 1, 2013 at 12:09 AM

    IGGY wil never win a championship because he is convinced he is a number 1 option in the NBA and at best he is Robin to Someones Batman… I could see him playing well for the Pelicans.. thats the only team i see him fitting in with…

  9. rickycubane - Jul 1, 2013 at 12:09 AM

    Pelicans still have 13+ million under cap

  10. anhdazman - Jul 1, 2013 at 1:26 AM

    How did this fool turn down 15+ in his final year? He should even be getting 10+ a year for whomever he’s about to sign with. Denver will probably be the foolish team who ends up over paying for him to return.

    • anhdazman - Jul 1, 2013 at 1:27 AM

      Excuse me. “He shouldn’t even be getting 10+ a year for whomever he’s about to sign with.

      • louderthanwords1 - Jul 1, 2013 at 10:00 AM

        Why wouldn’t he turn down 16 for one year? He’d have been a fool to have picked up his option. Now he’s set to get a multi yr deal rather than hoping to stay healthy and trying to get a multi yr deal next offseason. Seems like the only fool here is you

  11. ryanrockzzz - Jul 1, 2013 at 7:24 AM

    The Sixers already made the mistake of overpaying Iggy when he was even younger. The problem with him is that he can be a jack of all trades, but a master of none. If a team can sign him to a reasonable deal, and let him focus on defense and making athletic playes, then it will work out just fine. The problem is when he has to be the No. 1 or 2 scoring option on a team, and he’s not a good enough scorer to handle that load.

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