- Ethan Sherwood Strauss, ESPN Staff Writer
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Watching players practice jumpers is either hypnotic or boring, depending on who's doing the hoisting.
I never much cared to see Andre Iguodala shoot before, but a few weeks ago at the Warriors' practice facility, his routine gained entertainment value with each swish. I started to question whether the slashing wing was ever a bad shooter in the first place. And I really started to wonder when he dismissed questions about improving his jumper in the offseason.
Iguodala drained 11 consecutive 3-pointers, a majority of which didn't bother asking the rim for directions to the net. It's well-known that even poor NBA shooters make plenty of shots when defense isn't present. Still, 11 in a row is a rare sight, especially considering this shooter has career 3-point percentage of 33.3.
When the Warriors landed Iguodala in the offseason, there were fears the 29-year-old swingman would be a drag on a thrilling offensive attack. He was joining Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, “Splash Brothers” whom their coach believed to comprise the greatest shooting backcourt of all time. Would Iguodala screw up the spacing? Would his discordant rim clanks throw off the Oracle rhythm?
Instead, Iguodala has fit right in. He is shooting a molten 47.8 percent from deep on 3.8 attempts per game, while doing so much else to help the Warriors to an 8-4 start. It’s early days and that number will likely come down a bit, but he’s proved to be no threat to Golden State’s spacing. You can't gladly leave a guy open if he boasts the capability to do what Iguodala did over this span.
So what’s happening here? Is this just small sample size theater? Did Iguodala fix his shot all of a sudden?
I believe Iguodala’s shooting practice routine gives some insight into that last question. It's not that he fixed something; it’s that the way he's always shot can work in Oakland.
Iguodala doesn't release the ball quickly. Instead, he ducks forward for a beat while dipping the ball below his waist. From there, he finally releases the ball nearly straight up, as though the shot is a fountain geyser. It’s a pretty shot when undisturbed. Problem is, it's hard to get undisturbed shots against NBA defenses. Or rather, it's hard for perimeter players to get those shots if they aren't playing alongside Curry.
Iguodala has made 20 of his 32 3-point attempts when Curry is on the floor. When Curry sits, Iguodala is 2-for-14 from beyond the arc. Again, early days, but the dramatic difference makes sense when you watch the film.
After last season's playoffs, the opposition is appropriately terrified of this little point guard shooting 3s off the dribble. This is a unique problem for defenses, as even shooters with range can’t maintain quick-strike accuracy from 30 feet off the bounce.
The rules for guarding Curry have changed, and he's noticed it. When asked about his spike in assists, from 6.9 last season to 8.7 this season, Curry said defenses are "putting two on the ball," meaning the opposition blitzes Curry with a second defender in pick-and-roll situations. This opens up teammates around the floor for the obvious reason that double-teaming leaves an offensive player to his own devices. Also, if Curry is able to elude his pursuers, he’s liable to cause all kinds of defensive chaos as he drags two defenders back toward a unit that’s attempting to remain cohesive. It’s like he’s punching the body of a defense with its own fist.
So far, Iguodala is benefiting greatly from the odd compromises Curry imposes on a defense. He has time to set his feet, dip downward and hold his follow-through at the speed of a man doing yoga poses.
Perhaps he's been a great outside shooter all along. We just never had time to see it.