Andre Iguodala, according to The Washington Post in a piece backed up by a ton of comparative statistics, is the worst finals MVP in the last 30 years of NBA history. That may well be, although The Straits Times, applauding the choice in a piece focusing more on the intangibles, would beg to differ. However you slice it, hardly anyone could have seen this coming when the finals started two weeks ago.
According to Bovada, Andre Iguodala's odds were 100-1 to win NBA Finals MVP when series began. pic.twitter.com/ZkZqQKq2NU
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 17, 2015
To say Iguodala’s emergence as NBA Finals MVP is a surprise would be stating the obvious. Not so much because the Golden State Warrior forward is undeserving of the award – Yahoo! Sports contends Iguodala was the Warriors’ most consistent player of the finals and deserving of the award – but because, in a field that included season MVP Stephen Curry and “best player in the world” Lebron James, hardly anyone could have predicted that an 11-year veteran player who did not start a single game during the Warriors 67-win regular season could be the pivotal player of these finals.
Indeed, Iguodala did not even start any of the first three games of the finals itself, and – beyond beating James and Curry to the crown – its perhaps even more remarkable that a player who started only the last three games of the entire season could possibly walk away with the MVP trophy. Remarkable. And very telling too. The Warriors, after taking the first game of the series – an overtime win on home court – had just lost two straight games to go 2-1 down, when coach Steve Kerr took the decision to throw Iguodala into the starting line up. The Warriors won three straight games after that, seeing off Cleveland to claim its first championship in forty years. Not just that, after three straight close games – the first two going into overtime – the last three were pretty much blow out wins for the Warriors.
— ESPN (@espn) June 17, 2015
Not that Iguodala hadn’t already made his mark on the final before game four; his performance, off the bench in game one, was a key reason for the Warriors’ come-from-behind win, and despite back-to-back losses, and a below par shooting performance in game two, he convinced Kerr that he was best equipped to handle the dominant James, hence the decision to start him in game four. Ironically, as Yahoo! Sports argues, without the excellent one-man show that James put up Iguodala may never have had got his big chance. The Cleveland forward – a two time finals MVP himself – was incredibly dominant through out the finals, posting 44 points in that game one loss, and following that with 39 and 40 points respectively to put the Cavs ahead.
On the face of it, Iguodala starting from game four hardly slowed James down. As The Guardian points out, he still finished with one of the best individual performances in NBA finals history with two triple doubles, and averaging 35.8 points, 8.8 assists, and 13.3 rebounds per game. Had Cleveland won the series, he would undoubtedly, indisputably have been named MVP, and even in defeat, he still garnered four of the 11 votes. Yet, Iguodala’s impact on James’ game is undeniable, as The Washington Post points out.
“To be fair, Iguodala did a yeoman’s job defending James. When they shared the court James had a net rating of minus-15.5 and was held to a true shooting percentage of 46.4 percent, which sky-rocketed to a net rating of plus-18.8 and 50.9 percent true shooting when they didn’t.”
NBA breaks it down further with some other numbers.
“62 – Points by which the Warriors outscored the Cavs with Andre Iguodala on the floor. That was the best plus-minus in the series. Next best was Stephen Curry at plus-52. The Warriors were outscored by 19 points in Iguodala’s 76 minutes on the bench.”
In the end, it probably came down to perfect timing for Iguodala, who – proving it wasn’t all about defence – finished the series averaging 16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and four assists over 36.8 minutes per game, according to NBA.com. He shot 40% from three-point range in the finals, but tellingly hit 9 of 14 three point attempts in fourth quarters, and his highest scoring games of the entire season came in games four and six of the finals, when he scored 22 and 25 points respectively.
Andre Iguodala saved his best for the most important stretch of the season, when the Warriors needed it the most, and as Chris Chase concludes in USA Today.
“..there was only one man who deserved to be named most valuable.”
[Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]