It is not a stretch to say that the most coveted player on the trade market has yet to play a single minute of basketball this season. Sure, Andre Iguodala is technically on the Memphis Grizzlies and making $17 million this season, but he may as well be a free agent. The two parties agreed in September that he wouldn’t play for them this season after coming over from the Warriors this offseason in a cap-clearing move. But Memphis isn’t planning to buy out Iguodala (and reportedly wants a first-round pick in return), which means the bidding to get one of the key figures from the Warriors’ championship runs might come down to who is willing to part with the best asset and which team has the right expiring contracts to send Memphis in return without saddling it with long-term salary they don’t want. The teams linked to Iguodala so far, according to The Athletic, are the Clippers, Rockets, Mavericks, and Nuggets, with the Lakers as a hopeful outsider trying to figure out whether they have anything left to trade. So, with December 15 trade floodgates looming, which team stands to gain the most by adding him?
Los Angeles Clippers
Imagine James Harden’s reaction when he gets doubled by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George near half court only to have Iguodala waiting for him behind them. While such a trio would be a massive nuisance for Harden, it would turn into a nightmare for any other ball handler less equipped than the former MVP. That’s the kind of fear the Clippers could exert on opposing teams should they nab the 15-year-veteran away from Memphis. Their treasure trove of assets isn’t stockpiled with too many draft picks (those belong to Sam Presti now), but they still have their 2020 first-rounder they could send protected, an $11 million expiring Mo Harkless contract, and a handful of young players like Jerome Robinson and Terance Mann, who could maybe intrigue Memphis. If the Grizzlies are willing to play ball with one of the perennial favorites this season, the Clippers won’t hesitate to pull the trigger. This is a win-now team that won’t flinch at the chance to add another win-now player. If the Clips aren’t already the favorites, this would certainly put them in the driver’s seat.
Dallas is this season’s quantum-leap team, brought to you by Luka Doncic’s rapid ascension to becoming one of the best players in the league. We’re almost a quarter of the way through the season, and the Mavericks are third in the West with a 17-7 record. As presently constructed, they seem like a second-round team that could get upset in the first round given their youth and inexperience. Adding Iguodala wouldn’t quite make them into contenders to the level that the Lakers and the Clippers are, but it would make them even more dangerous and give either L.A. team a tough series. Like the Clippers, they also have their 2020 first-rounder to dangle, but unlike the Clippers, Dallas still seems like it’s building a long-term product even if Luka has sped up its timeline. So while Iguodala, at nearly 36 years of age, is sure to boost its middle-of-the-pack defense and give it another versatile wing on offense, he’s not the final piece to Dallas’s puzzle.
Iguodala is seven years removed from leaving Denver, where he last averaged double-digit points per game. Returning just as the Nuggets hope to make the jump from fringe contenders to possible conference champions would be a nice full-circle moment. Weirdly enough, the Nuggets could use Iguodala’s remaining offense and overall veteran leadership more than his vaunted defense. Their 11 3s per game is a bottom-10 number in the league, as is their field goal percentage. Iguodala is no longer the scoring threat he once was, but in the playoffs, Denver is lacking not only an experienced voice, but another trusted player to knock down clutch shots if the ball finds them late in the game. I’ve been a Nuggets skeptic for a while, and their sluggish start (looking at you, Nikola Jokic) hasn’t helped, but throwing Iguodala into the mix is one surefire way to up your playoff profile. He’s exactly the type of player they need to go against the LeBrons and Kawhis of the world—and have a shot.
This is my personal favorite landing spot because man, the narratives and story lines and potential drama would be exquisite, and I’m always here for the schadenfreude above all. The fit on the court would be seamless and give the Rockets the defensive boost they badly need (plus more wide-open 3s!), but at the same time, I cannot wait for the first time Iguodala gets frustrated by something Harden or Russell Westbrook does or fails to do. Or the first time Iguodala gives a not-so-cryptic quote about how playing with Steph Curry is different than playing next to Harden or Russ. Iguodala might spend most of his Houston nights dreaming of the good ol’ days next to Steph more likely than not, but it’s evident he could boost this Rockets’ team chances and put them in the same tier as the Clippers and Lakers (if they’re not already there). Narratives aside, Houston will gladly take a title even if it means having Iguodala help it get there.
Lakers: Unlike the Clippers, who have the best outright defensive talent on paper, the Lakers already feature the third-best defensive unit in the league. Adding Iguodala would be like throwing gasoline into a fire. With Anthony Davis playing like a bonafide DPOY candidate, LeBron engaged on that end, and Avery Bradley set to return to full health soon, this would make the Lakers even more unassailable. The problem is that they barely have any assets or contracts they could use to match the money left in their cupboard to tempt Memphis.
Sixers: I lied about Denver—Iguodala returning to Philly after spending the first eight seasons of his career there would be the perfect bookend to his career. The Sixers are betting a lot on at least making the Finals this season, and Iguodala’s two-way prowess would give them the proper safety valve that their abnormal roster needs.
Heat: I know Pat Riley likes going after big fish in free agency, but if the Heat keep this up and deals for bigger name are hinging on assets like Tyler Herro, then why not pivot to Iguodala? He feels like a Miami culture player already, and it would only boost the team’s depth. I’m talking myself into this one if only because the top of the East keeps getting more intriguing as the season goes on.