When it was first reported that Andre Iguodala and the Memphis Grizzlies agreed that the veteran would not report to training camp, the writing was on the wall. Iguodala would not play a second for the Grizzlies, and the only question that remained was how long until he was somewhere else? The Grizzlies quickly reached a buyout with Dwight Howard that allowed him to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, so surely they would do the same for Iguodala, right?
Wrong. Memphis chose to go another route with Iguodala, seeking a trade for the 35-year old forward. Of course, the trade deadline not until February, Iguodala’s respite from basketball could extend long beyond the season’s opening days and weeks, and even further still beyond the December 15 deadline when he would become eligible to be traded.
Earlier this week, Jackie MacMullan, via The Hoop Collective podcast, said that “four different players” have told her that Iguodala is headed to the Lakers. And that’s not a surprise; an Igudodala-Lakers marriage makes sense on multiple fronts. Still, things can change quickly in this league.
And, at this stage of his career, it’s all about the playoffs for Iguodala. He started just 13 regular season games for the Golden State Warriors a year ago, but found his way into the starting five in 15 postseason contests. In those games, Iguodala averaged 9.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game.
While returning would be nice, a reunion with the Warriors is almost out of the question. The Grizzlies would have to trade him, and he would have to subsequently be waived and clear waivers. On top of that, the Warriors would then have to trade one of their guaranteed contracts in order to make room for the veteran’s probable $2.5 million veteran minimum salary.
He won three titles and a Finals MVP in five Finals appearances for the Warriors, but, at least for now, it would appear as if his stint there has concluded.
So, while the consensus has long been that his next stop would be Los Angeles, where else could Iguodala wind up?
Obviously, Iguodala would like to join a contender. The Utah Jazz would make an excellent destination for the forward, as he could prove a significant upgrade over offseason addition Jeff Green. Utah has an extremely deep roster, and Iguodala would only improve on that depth without having to play significant minutes. Quin Snyder, a defensive-minded head coach, is one of the NBA’s best; he would certainly have no trouble maximizing Iguodala’s abilities to wreak havoc on opposing teams.
But the West is full of contenders, so his odds of reaching the NBA Finals may actually improve should Iguodala join a team in the East. A reunion with the Philadelphia 76ers could make for a great storyline, one with a Hollywood-type ending were they to bring home the Larry O’Brien trophy. The 76ers have a strong first unit, one of the best in the league, in fact, but lack depth. Iguodala would not only provide them with that depth to give their stars the occasional break, but could prove crucial as a versatile defensive weapon in the frontcourt against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the like.
The Houston Rockets have had previous interest in Iguodala and are another team in desperate need of depth. Like Philadelphia, their starters are talented and reliable, but the second unit is significantly lacking, more so than ever after the potential loss of Gerald Green for the season. While the 76ers have Antetokounmpo to deal with, the Rockets could have their hands full with LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and others; the defense of these stars, from both starters and reserves, could prove crucial to the Rockets’ success. In their first game of the season, the Rockets were unable to even stop the Milwaukee Bucks’ role players as Antetokounmpo watched from the bench in foul trouble, so clearly some change is needed. But, after trying and failing to construct a trade, a buyout may be the only way Iguodala finds his way to Houston.
The San Antonio Spurs could also be a solid place for Iguodala to land. Iguodala could prove the perfect fit on a loaded roster of rising young talent (Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker, etc.) and All-Star veterans (LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, etc.). His workload would be balanced, which could keep the 35-year-old fresh deep into the season and into a potential playoff run. Like most players, Iguodala also has a tremendous amount of respect for Gregg Popovich, so a transition into the Spurs’ system should prove relatively easy.
The last ideal destination would the Portland Trail Blazers, a team that has long needed some extra oomph to get them over the hump. The Trail Blazers could make great use of Iguodala; while Mario Hezonja has been a pleasant surprise through two games, Iguodala could provide invaluable playoff experience for a relatively young team. Once Jusuf Nurkic is back on the court, Portland could go full throttle with their dynamic backcourt leading the way while Iguodala, Rodney Hood, Kent Bazemore, Zach Collins, and Anfernee Simons make meaningful contributions from the bench.
Perhaps the most interesting piece in all of this is what these other teams have to offer Memphis. The Clippers, Lakers and Rockets are unable to trade a first-round pick for Iguodala because of prior trades, per the Stepien Rule. Meanwhile, the final year of Iguodala’s contract is worth $17.2 million; any acquiring team would, on top of whatever assets they chose to deal, would also need to send out sufficient salary to make the trade work. Neither the Clippers, Lakers nor Rockets have that kind of salary that they would be willing to move, either.
Regardless of his eventual destination, Iguodala should improve their chance of an NBA championship immensely. And, while it may take some time for this saga to reach its conclusion, these teams, and other contenders, would be more than happy to make use of Iguodala when it does.
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