Struggle is a part of life. Sometimes we forget that when we’re looking at professional basketball players. They make so much money, they’re so talented, and there’s so much hype around players changing teams that it’s easy to overlook how much harder a transition can be than just putting on that shiny new jersey.
There are better indicators to telling how the new guy in town’s going to fare besides how he looks in the new uniform. It’s still all a matter of fit, though. Players have skills and teams have schemes. Sometimes the two don’t mix as well as everyone thought they would on media day. With training camp here, let’s take a look at some players who may have a harder than expected time adjusting to their new surroundings.
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5. ANDRE IGUODALA, Denver
The reason Iguodala finds himself on this list is more of a situational struggle than any fault of Iggy himself. What he brings to the table is pretty well defined at this point. He’s an elite perimeter defender, a plus rebounder and scorer, and one of the game’s most capable passers when used in a point forward capacity. These advantages lead into his downfall, which is that his skillset clearly puts him at a sort of Pippen-level second option on a championship team, or a super third-wheel type player in a “big three” scheme.
Watching Iggy play for Team USA in the World Championships last year, and again this year in the Olympics, was a beautiful experience. He plays incredible team basketball. I always hoped that when he moved on from Philadelphia, he’d end up somewhere alongside a dominant scoring option.
Instead he ended up in Denver, a place where his skillset is a definite upgrade, yet also already somewhat redundant. It’s worth remembering that while Iguodala is considered a large upgrade at the wing position for Denver, he may end up taking more off the table and interrupting the Nuggets offensive flow. He improved his three-point shooting markedly last year and still only clocked in at around 39 percent from beyond the arc, his career best. Iguodala could start at shooting guard, and with Kenneth Faried likely starting at power forward, that leaves only Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari as legitimate three-point threats.
He will fit right in with the running style that has always been present in Denver, shooting 79 percent in fast-break situations in which he is not handling the ball. Assuming the Nuggets keep their pace, which was the second-highest in the entire league last year, he should be able to contribute efficiently on offense. The problem is that he will contribute in a vastly different way than Arron Afflalo, helping the team on defense and in transition but eliminating the three-point shot that marks Denver’s half-court offense.
While the Nuggets get better with the addition of Iggy, they don’t improve enough to take the leap into the title discussion. Because of this, Iguodala’s season will be unfairly considered a disappointment. He won’t meet the expectations, so his efforts this year will be considered a struggle. His actual transition might go smoothly, but it will be severely overshadowed.
4. O.J. MAYO, Dallas
O.J. Mayo is free. Well, kind of. After two years of being a bench hurricane for the Grizzlies, he finally gets his chance at big minutes (and big scoring) in Dallas. However, O.J. is one of those players whose minutes have fluctuated throughout his career and who’s per-36 minute statistics have remained relatively static. In his first two years, when he was averaging around 19 and 18 points per game, respectively, he was also playing 38 minutes per game. Last year he averaged about 13 points and played 27 minutes a game. In terms of per-36 minute production, he averaged roughly the same scoring, rebounding and assiting numbers. So it stands to reason that we really shouldn’t expect much bigger things out of Mayo this year than we saw his first two years… unless, of course, his situation were to improve.