Then, He Was a Nugget

Last year's Finals MVP Andre Iguodala is doing work again in the Warriors' quest for a second-straight title. But before finding glory in Oakland, Iggy made a prominent stop in Denver in 2012-13.

The team at Hashtag Basketball is chronicling the career path of Andre Iguodala. Sixers feature writer Jordan Christmas kicked things off yesterday with "First, He Was a 76er." The journey continues with a tribute to his brief, but memorable, Nuggets tenure.


Andre Iguodala and the Denver Nuggets joined forces for one magical season in 2012-13, before parting ways and seeing their respective paths diverge drastically. 

The glorious regular season of 2012-13 saw the Nuggets go 57-25 under George Karl before bowing out in the first round of the playoffs to the Warriors, 'Dre's current team. With Iguodala starting all 80 games he played in, the Nuggets led the league in points per game with their familiar run-n-gun offense. Iggy made his presence felt early, his first points coming off a steal and one-man fast break dunk.

As the best two-way player on a surprisingly potent offense, Iguodala was the team's anchor all season. It was also the last season of his career in which he played primarily 2-guard, opposite Ty Lawson, with Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and Kosta Koufos manning the front court. I'd argue it was in Denver that Iguodala first found his true destiny, as a defensive stopper that fills up stat sheets but doesn't shoulder too big a scoring burden. He was traded to Denver after failing to live up to the hype of being Allen Iverson 2.0 in Philadelphia, an unfair expectation from the beginning. The only similarities Iggy has to The Answer are his initials and the fact he went to Denver after years in Philly. The comparisons stop there, and that's OK. With the pressure gone and his role more clearly defined he became a Swiss Army knife for the Nuggets in a way that savvy Warriors management definitely noticed and filed away for a later date.

But before he'd embody the versatility of the new NBA and become a member of the deadliest 5-man lineup in recent history in Golden State, Iggy found himself in Denver. The Nuggets thrived off his energy, ball movement and ability to play with pace. The team finished with its best regular season record since the ABA days, a No. 3 seed without a true superstar. No one saw it coming, just two years removed from the Carmelo Anthony trade. Thanks to healthy and productive seasons from Gallinari, Lawson, Faried and Iguodala, Denver ran opposing teams out of the gym and went a remarkable 38-3 at home.

Iguodala had 10 double-doubles and a triple-double in a win over the mighty Spurs on April 10, 2013. His stat line that night was a harbinger of his Finals MVP performance: 12 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 steals.

As the veteran on the team, Karl entrusted Iguodala as a go-to option in crunch time. Watch him deliver big here in a sweet game-winner against Dallas:

Poetically, the star-starved Nuggets bowed out in the first round to Iguodala's future team, the Warriors. Iggy played well in that series, but it's tough to win a playoff series without a top-20 player, and the other team had Stephen Curry. In a Game 5 win that extended the series briefly, Iguodala took the team on his back with a 25-point effort:

That 2012-13 Nuggets team turned out to be a shooting star - unexpected, magnificent and gone in a flash. Karl was fired, marking the end of an era in Denver. Iggy helped the famed coach go out with an exclamation point before following him out the door as part of a 3-team trade that sent him to Golden State. The Nuggets have been a Lottery team ever since; Iguodala has helped the Warriors win an average of 64 regular season games over three seasons, break the single-season wins record and win the franchise's first NBA title since 1975. Oh, and a second-straight title is just two wins away.

But hey, at least the Nugs got Randy Foye and a 2nd round pick out of the deal.


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