The recent injury to the Denver Nuggets’ starting point Ty Lawson has seen a subtle shift in the ball handling duties on offense. The Nuggets are a team whose entire offense is predicated on having two adept ball handlers on the court at all times, with Ty Lawson and Andre Miller changing primary duties and Andre Iguodala serving as the constant second. In the past four games Lawson has missed, Miller has shifted to the primary ball handler full time with Iguodala overtaking Miller’s previous role and rookie Evan Fournier taking Iggy’s.
This shift in lineups has lead to Karl using a weapon he has since ignored due to the depth Denver has at point and his need for using the players’ positional flexibility in other areas. Denver is now running the offense through Andre Iguodala’s more than capable hands by shifting him to primary ball handler in lineups where the only other guard is Fournier. Iggy’s label of “point forward” fails dramatically to live up to the unattainable and borderline mythical heights that LeBron James has taken that title, but this does not mean he doesn’t have his own offensive strengths.
While not exactly having the ball handling skills that is required for your average point guard in the league, he makes up for this with his adept passing ability and superior court vision. Combine this with Iggy’s explosive athleticism and height advantage against most opposing forwards and you have a mismatch waiting to happen.
Here Iguodala takes the ball up the court and uses a high screen by McGee to get past his initial defender, which forces Jefferson away from the now rolling McGee to cut off Iggy’s lane. Meanwhile, Fournier is wading out of bounds in classic Nuggets fashion until his man, Mo Williams, is forced to leave him and rotate over to help on McGee. Iggy sees this and delivers a pinpoint bounce pass to the cutting Fournier for an easy layup.
A play like that works so well because the initial blow-by from Iguodala (helped by JaVale McGee’s screen) was on the completely mismatched defender of Marvin William, a 6’9’’ forward essentially trying to defend a “point guard” in Iguodala.
Once again, Iguodala takes advantage of a bigger forward trying to guard him, in this case its Gerald Wallace, and blows past him easily enough. Reggie Evans makes a very Reggie Evans mistake by abandoning his weak side assignment on Koufos and Iguodala uses his fantastic vision and passing to deliver a perfect bounce pass off a pivot to Koufos for the lay-in.
Poor Gerald Wallace. Iguodala shames him and his lost step once again by going past him and this time Reggie Evans makes the right move by cutting off his lane to the rim. Iggy takes one step into the paint, gets Evans into the air and before he even jumps he knows he is going to pass it to Brewer. Koufos does as well and he seals off MarShon Brooks from even attempting to close out on Brewer, leaving Iggy a clear lane to deliver the pass for an open jumper in a spot Brewer is shooting 44 percent on for the season.
These plays are examples of the subtle nuances it takes not just to be a good passing forward but to be an adept distributor as the primary ball handler. When bad luck happens to strike a team, as with this short-term Lawson injury, you never know what good can also blossom from the misfortune. With the playoffs around the corner, George Karl can be assured that Andre Iguodala is ready and willing to shift into that point guard position. Its always nice going into the postseason with a mismatch-generating secret weapon in your back pocket.