Danny Granger vs. Andre Iguodala

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The Pacers locked up home-court advantage in the first round, and the playoffs are on everybody’s mind. But we have plenty of time to talk about the upcoming postseason (and believe me, we will give you plenty of analysis). For the moment, we’re going to take a little break from the playoff chatter and do a little old-fashion player to player comparison between Danny Granger and Andre Iguodala.

The Small  forward is perhaps the most interesting position in the league right now. Considered the “three spot,” it fits right in the middle of the lineup and any given small forward might have a skill set that fits the description of a shooting guard or a power forward — or both. In the current NBA landscape there are Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant, and then everybody else. But Danny Granger and Andre Iguodala, only separated by one draft class, have quietly emerged over the past few years as two of the most effective and dangerous small forwards in the NBA.

The two young veterans seem to be atop that second tier of their position; not MVP candidates, but certainly all-star caliber players. They would rank ahead, in my opinion, of generational peers like Rudy Gay or Luol Deng as well as aging players like Shawn Marion and, perhaps even Paul Pierce. But the question is, which one of these two players is better?

Sure, they play the same position. Sure, there is only a two-inch height difference. Sure, their 2012 salaries are within about one million dollars of each other and there is only about a nine-month age difference. But the truth is they are very different players. Iguodala’s game revolves around his versatility; he is a freak athlete who can rebound, attack the rim, play defense and pass. Granger, on the other hand, is primarily a scorer whose shooting ability is his most dangerous threat.

The numbers back this up. Every year that both players have been in the league (Iguodala was drafted a year before Granger), Granger has averaged more points per game than his counter part. Even in Granger’s rookie year (Iguodala’s second season) he put more points on the board than Iguodala and he averages nearly six more points per game for his career, which is no small number. In fact, it is the same difference in career points per game between Kobe Bryant and Michael Redd. While Danny Granger may not be able to score as proficiently as a Kevin Durant, he can do an adequate job of creating offense on his own and hit bail-out shots late in the shot clock. He’s a threat to go for 30 points on any given night and the same can not be said about Andre Iguodala.

On the other hand, Iguodala, at two inches shorter than Granger, has averaged more rebounds per game in all but one of the seasons that they have both been in the league. Even more impressively, he has averaged more assists per game than Granger every single year, and it has never really been close. Here’s where it gets interesting: while Granger has always been a better scorer over the course of their career that doesn’t mean Iguodala isn’t efficient with his scoring. He has had a better shooting percentage than Granger every single season and has an impressive career percentage of .461 compared to Granger’s .439. It might also be mentioned that if you need five minutes of lock down defense pretty much any coach would look towards Iguodala rather than Granger. In fact, there are games when the former looks like the best defender in the league.

So at the end of the day you’re choosing between scoring and versatility. Versatility is hard to find and it should never be discredited, but the goal is to put the ball in the basket and someone like Carmelo Anthony isn’t a franchise player because of his versatility. To be fair, we probably shouldn’t be wasting our time trying to figure out which one of these two are better, we should probably just appreciate the unique skills that they both bring to the table and respect the hard work and team-first mentality that they have both committed to over the years while neither became infatuated with the spotlight. But basketball is a “who’s better? who’s best?” culture and if we don’t compare them someone else will.

Before we get to my personal verdict, let’s first take some time to mock everyone’s favorite north-of-the-border punchline. In 2004, Andre Iguodala was drafted ninth overall by Philadelphia. The Toronto Raptors used the eighth pick to draft Rafael Araujo. In 2005 Danny Granger went 17th overall. The Raptors used the 16th pick to draft Joey Graham. Neither of those two Raptor selections are currently playing for NBA teams and the Toronto Raptors are currently 22-41. Nice job, fellas.

My verdict for who gets the slight edge between Granger or Iguodala actually can be attributed to a completely separate player. His name is Paul George. What I mean is that while the Pacers get typical Granger-qualities from Danny Granger, they also get a little bit of Iguodala’s qualities from Paul George. Now, I want to make clear that I admit it would be quite unfair to Andre Iguodala to claim that Paul George is currently on his level, but the point is that George provides similar levels of versatility and shows plenty of signs for future improvement.

For that reason, the Pacers are probably not desperate to acquire a player like Andre Iguodala because they already have, at the very least, a poor-man’s version of him in George. But if you take a look at the Sixers whose recent struggles can be attributed to their season-long problem of being unable to put points on the board , they would love to have a shooter like Granger. Prolific and efficient scorers are hard to find in the NBA. Everyone in the league can score a little. A poor-man’s version of Danny Granger might be, well, Joey Graham.

To wrap this whole thing up nicely we should just point out how lucky the Pacers and Sixers have been over the past couple years to have the small forwards they have. They both bring something different to the table, but the success of both of their teams starts and stops with them. I just don’t think the Pacers will be inquiring about Mr. Iguodala any time soon. They are pretty content with their own small forward.

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