The Philadelphia 76ers will already be sending one player with the initials A.I. to the NBA All-Star Game in Dallas next month. Surely, it is not the one fans would have imagined at the beginning of the season, as Allen Iverson improbably returned in December.
No, this is concerning Andre Iguodala, a frustrating yet extremely talented player, and his case for All-Star recognition.
All last season, Sixers fans heard then-head coach Tony DiLeo proclaim it would be Iguodala's last year taking vacation time during All-Star Weekend. Even before this season, Iguodala could have been expected to elevate his game to the next level.
Now in his sixth season, Iguodala has provided many with jaw-dropping athleticism yet failure to conjure up a dominant game. With a contract worth over $80 million, you damn well should be an All-Star caliber player.
Well, based on performances thus far, Iguodala is an All-Star this year. No, Andre will not impress you with the smoothness of his jumper or his post-game interviews. However, he will provide one of the most well-rounded games in the NBA.
An extremely durable player, Iguodala has only missed six games in his career and started every one that he has played in, including 44 this season. In 2009-2010 he is averaging 17.6 PPG, above his career average of 15.8.
Simple-minded fans would glance at this respectable but not amazing stat and pass on Iguodala's credentials. Don't do this. After spending a lot of time early in the season handling the ball, he has racked up 5.7 APG while creating countless opportunities for his teammates.
For most, basketball stops there on the offensive end. This unfortunately hurts the argument for Iggy even more, as he may be best on the defensive side of things.
On a given night, (imbecile) head coach Eddie Jordan may require Andre to guard up to four different positions, and he does it well. Even as a two or a three, Iguodala manages to pull down 6.9 RPG, adding 1.9 SPG. If you have Andre Iguodala on your fantasy basketball team, you are probably pleasantly surprised.
But does that make him an All-Star?
We know LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Dwayne Wade, Dwight Howard, and Iverson will start for the Eastern Conference squad. That leaves seven open spots for some good players worthy of a great honor.
Chris Bosh has to be the first man off the bench. Based on his incredible statistical production, Gerald Wallace should earn his first berth. Joe Johnson and Josh Smith should be awarded a spot in the Big D due to their contributions to the surprising Atlanta Hawks. Rajon Rondo finally seems to be bursting into the "Big Three" bubble, outlasting teammates Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
Two spots remain. Pierce and Allen could be considered as well as Derrick Rose, David Lee, Antawn Jamison, and Steven Jackson. It would be easier if Allen Iverson wasn't in the picture, but hey, I'm not complaining. Boston has their two stars, the Wizards are too much of a mess to consider Jamison, and the Bobcats will definitely not have two, after never having any representatives.
When he was drafted No. 9 overall in the 2004 Draft, the Sixers organization and fans alike did not know what they were getting with Andre Iguodala.
Surely we knew about the athletic, unproven player. Still six years later, I feel the same way. Iguodala has displayed immense talent but has remained unrecognized vastly among media and his peers.
An All-Star berth would be a wise choice for A.I. No. 2.