It's really a pretty impressive list, and one could argue that Iguodala is the most physically gifted of the bunch. This is a guy who was built for the style of game the NBA showcases. He's a 6-6 forward with a seven-footer's wingspan, which makes him a potential force on the defensive side of the floor. He has good court vision and solid passing skills. He's a good ball-handler and can be explosive in the open floor. He can jump through the roof.
The NBA likes those kinds of things, and as a league that seems bent on selecting on the basis of potential rather than seasoning, there's confidence the issues of uncertainty can be handled.
Issues like shooting touch. Remarkably, Iguodala is listed as a shooting guard, yet the thing he hasn't done well is shoot the ball. That said, it's not like he has Reggie Geary form. Prior to the beginning of the season, many people (me included) commented on the improvement of Iguodala's jump shot, and how if he could convert on a consistent basis, as he was in practice, he could make a push for conference player of the year.
Well, the shot never developed, and despite a school-record three triple-doubles, Iguodala never became the dominant option some expected. In fact, offensively he often floundered. He was a marginal shooter, but in the process didn't showcase his abilities to find the open man. Despite being credited with a team-leading 147 assists, five more than his predecessor, passing aficionado Luke Walton, Arizona looked more like a unit that scored on pure ability than a corps that flourished by virtue of finding the open man.
In regards to Iguodala's ability to put the ball in the hole, it is here where the argument to return is strongest. Jefferson, a player who excels at a similar position and has many of the same physical attributes as Iguodala, made significant strides in shooting percentage by his junior season. Jefferson left Arizona converting on 48 percent of his field goal efforts vs. 45 percent for Iguodala. Jefferson also took better shots. He understood his range as evidenced by attempting just 31 three-pointers while converting less than 32 percent of the time. Iguodala jacked up 73 shots from beyond the arc.
In terms of personality, the always-amicable Jefferson had the opportunity to make great strides in terms of leadership value. Iguodala never gave himself the chance to showcase similar attributes, and certainly that's a knock given Arizona's oft-discussed mental frailties in 2004.
As far as positioning is concerned, it seems odd to criticize Iguodala. After all, he'll likely be selected at about the same time as Jefferson. So he'll make Jefferson-like money upon his arrival. But the issue isn't so much about the first contract, but whether you'll perform well enough to land Jefferson/Bibby/Arenas-esque figures once the initial deal expires.
One can argue Jefferson is primed to earn significant coin because of the strides he made with that extra year in the Arizona program. Iguodala has all the raw tools, and certainly possesses the innate gifts that can't be taught in practice. But the NBA is full of guys with innate gifts who are fundamentally deficient also-rans.
Personally, my instinct is that Iguodala could have benefited with another year in the Arizona system. But I was way off on Arenas. In the end, it's up to Iguodala, and whether he has the willingness to improve upon his shortcomings, and thus impress his team by virtue of solid all-around play, or whether he'll be one the few UA products to actually disappoint…
…Speaking of the NBA, can someone please explain to me why Jerry Colangelo was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame? Has this now become an honor based on longevity? Colangelo has been at the helm of the Suns since their inception in 1968. OK, so for some part of 35 years Colangelo has managed to operate a franchise that consistently posts 50 wins and loses to the Lakers at some stage in the Western Conference playoffs. In that 35 years, the Suns have only advanced to the NBA Finals twice, losing in six games on both occasions. A decade ago, during the brief Michael Jordan absence, Phoenix was the best team in the NBA, and in consecutive years managed to squander a 2-0 playoff lead to Houston, after winning the openers on the road, and a 3-1 margin. As a result, Houston has championship banners. Phoenix has the retired jersey of Dick Van Arsdale, well and Paul Westphal, who argued with Colangelo during Suns stints as a player and coach.
Of the pro franchises, I'm probably most a fan of the Suns, although since I've faded from any real enjoyment for the NBA, my interest has admittedly drifted significantly. I remember when the Suns could score with the best of them, and give up just as many points. Somewhere in my debacle of an apartment, I still have a copy of Joe Gilmartin's "The Little Team that Could," released the year following the Suns' first trip to the Finals. In that book are autographs from Suns greats like Rich Kelly, Mike Niles, Alvin Scott and Garfield Heard. I met a good friend of mine at a Suns camp in Prescott. He is one of two people in the nation who still subscribes to the NBA Package on satellite. I've had healthy arguments with certain Golden State Warriors fans (at what point will Al Attles get his Hall of Fame induction?) about the brilliance of long-time Suns announcer Al McCoy.
It's harder to watch the Suns these days, although I think the Hardaway/Marbury trade has great potential. But even with all that pent-up passion and all those great memories—the Gar Heard rainbow in the Boston triple-overtime game, the sweet Walter Davis jumper, and ensuing cocaine rehab stint, the Westphal acrobatics, Alvan Adams' passing ability, the 80s drug scandal, Charles Barkley's outbursts, Kevin Johnson's relentless playoff struggles, the brilliant Jason Kidd deal--I still can't quite grasp Colangelo in the Hall.
Colangelo plans on severing his ties with the team over the course of the next seven years. The cornerstone of the legacy will one day be gone, but if I ever want to reminisce, at least I can always take a nostalgic swing to Springfield, Mass.