NBA: Nuggets unlikely winners out of Howard trade

The Los Angeles Lakers may not have been the only team to benefit from the Dwight Howard trade this offseason, as Ben Sathananthan finds out what Andre Iguodala brings to Denver in season 2012-13

The Dwight Howard trade saga raged long and hard throughout last season before the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic reached a deal, sending the star centre to Hollywood for bit parts and future draft picks. However, it may not be the Lakers who benefit most from this blockbuster deal. Another player – Andre Iguodala – traded from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Denver Nuggets, may just provide the Nuggets with the leader they have sought after since the megatrade that sent star player Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks at the trade deadline in 2011.

None of the players received from New York (Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov) had shown any great deal of leadership during their time in the Big Apple (Felton was later traded to the Blazers for Andre Miller and a draft pick that became Jordan Hamilton), however proved that they could provide the nucleus for a very stable team going 28-26 before the All Star break and 18-7 after it as members of the Nuggets.

In the lockout shortened season the Nuggets went 38-28 qualifying as the 6th seed but were shown up in the first round of the playoffs by the Lakers. As a defensive unit, the Nuggets were improving but still didn’t have that star player to take the final shot or to defend against the oppositions best player. Offensively, the Nuggets were very efficient as a fast break offense under George Karl, loaded with 3 point weapons and capable finishers on the break. Additionally, the Nuggets had notorious knucklehead Javale McGee to norture after trading him for Nene at the trade deadline. When they heard that Iguodala was being shopped as part of the Howard trade, Team President Josh Kroenke and GM Masai Ujiri were licking their lips.

“I don’t want to call it a no-brainer because you’ve got to put some thought into everything, but I think whenever a chance comes along to acquire an All-Star and an Olympian, you’ve got to always look at it pretty hard,” Kroenke said to CBS sports. “The deal made sense for us, so obviously we did it.”

Denver are looking to a bright future post Carmelo Anthony after claiming Andre Iguodala this offseason (Getty Images)

The Nuggets may have lost fan favorite Arron Afflalo, but Iguodala is more than adequate as a replacement. Andre Iguodala is a leader, who lets his hard work on the court do the talking for him. The energy he provides night after night on defense was enough to earn him a spot on the 2012 US Olympic Roster and will be the glue in making this team work as a unit.

With the ability to guard multiple positions, Iguodala releases players like Ty Lawson from guarding opposition stars and allows them to roam on defense, affecting the passing lanes and sparking their fast break offense. Because he can guard the larger small forwards and even some power forwards, it allows Denver to play small more often with both Lawson and Miller at the guards, and Gallinari at the stretch 4, playing where he exceled in New York.

He provides excellent rebounding for his size, averaging 6.1 boards a game last year and combined with sophomore Kenneth Faried, who will receive more minutes now that Al Harrington has been shipped to Orlando, will make this Nuggets defense the one of the best under George Karl.

What many people fail to realize is how Iguodala is continually increasing his offensive proffiency, especially from 3 point land to provide a constant threat, especially while on the fast break. He doesn’t need to lead the team in scoring to be a factor on the offensive end because of all the little things he does now: stretching the offense to allow guards like Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams into the paint, being able to make the right pass (he averaged 5.5 assists per game last season) and now providing an steady option for the kickout 3 (39% from 3 last season.) The importance now though is his ability to step up and make the big play as Ujiri points out.

“Whether it’s take the big shot or make the play that gets us the shot; just being a playmaker and being an ultimate team guy,” Ujiri said.

Providing that presence in the locker room that has been lacking in Denver is what Iguodala is most adept at, and setting that example for the young squad will allow Denver to construct a squad capable of challenging in the West.

“The Denver Nuggets are better. We’re better than we were last season, we’ve got some more experience, we’ve got a great basketball player,” Kroenke said. “We’re going to keep going forward.”

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