A Tale of Three Swingmen: Deng v. Granger v. Iguodala


            I’ve always associated Andre Iguodala with Luol Deng, mostly because they were both available to the Bulls with the 7th pick in the 2004 draft. They went with Deng, obviously, and the Sixers picked up Iggy with the 9th pick. (Sandwiched between them, by the way, was Rafael Araujo to the Raptors. Yikes.)

While Deng, along with Ben Gordon, joined the nucleus that would become the Baby Bulls, Iguodala went to a Sixer team in the midst of collapse. Allen Iverson was still on the team at that point, but would only be there another two and a half years, and Iggy has only nibbled at the playoffs in his first seven years, losing three times in the first round and looking like he’ll go out quietly this year.

The year after Deng and Iguodala joined the league, the Pacers drafted Danny Granger with the 17th pick. Granger had fallen for reasons that aren’t quite clear, but once he rounded into form he made the teams that passed on him regret it, winning the NBA’s Most Improved Player award in 2009 and making his first All-Star appearance. But like Iguodala, his team met with minimal success: this is only his second playoff appearance in six years.   

So which of these Eastern Conference swingmen is best? As always, let’s define terms: for this exercise, I want to figure out who you’d want on your team right now and for the next few years.

Basics first:

Luol Deng:                  6’9”     220      26 years old

Andre Iguodala:          6’6”     207      27 years old

Danny Granger:          6’8”     228      28 years old


            Granger, despite having the least experience in the League, is the oldest player. Also, both Granger and Iggy have sturdier builds than the taller Deng.

            Let’s move on to the standard advanced statistics:

                        PER                 Adj. +/-           Estimated Wins Added

Deng:              15.58               +2.36               8.1

Iguodala:         17.30               -2.14                10.2

Granger:          17.89               +.46                 8.3


            It’s important to note here that although he trails in PER and EWA, Deng has a sizeable advantage in Adjusted Plus/Minus. As we’ll see, we have a bit of a Goldilocks problem here, and Deng seems to be just right.

            Now we’ll break it down a bit and look at some more specific stats. I’ve included Defensive Rating and Offensive Rating for a more holistic approach at both ends:


                        P/36     TO%    TS%    Ast%   Reb%  USG      ORtg            DRtg            Net Rtg          

Deng:              16.0     9.24     54.9     11.9     8.6       23.4     105.98          97.64            8.33

Iguodala:         13.8     9.51     53.0     26.1     9.0       21.3     104.17         100.80          3.37

Granger:          21.1     10.99   55.4     12.8     8.5       29.7     102.96         103.82         -.86


Clearly there’s a lot going on here. Granger is obviously the big scorer, followed by Deng and then Iguodala. Granger’s turnover rate is significantly higher than the other two, but that goes along with the big bump he has in Usage. The biggest place in which one clearly out-paces the other two, however, is in Iguodala’s Assist Ratio. This makes sense, given that Iggy often plays the point for Doug Collins’ squad, but it does seem to give a clear advantage to Iggy in our little contest

            It’s important, though, to look at the defensive side of the ball. While I don’t trust defensive rating completely, or even a significant amount, the numbers here seem to back up my perception that Granger, for all of his offensive prowess, tends to give up as many as he puts in. Deng and Iguodala, meanwhile, have gained many admirers around the league for their defense. I’d attribute the large gap between their defensive ratings to the overall strength of the Bulls D.

            Finally, let’s check in on durability:


                        GP (2010-11)       MPG (2010-11)         Games/Season             MPG (career)

Deng:              82                          39.1                             69.3                                  35.0    

Iguodala:         67                         36.9                             79                                     38

Granger:          79                         35.0                             74.7                                  33.2


            Obviously, until this year Iguodala has been a tank, while Deng seems to have reinforced his brittle bones. The time Granger has missed is a little bit troublesome, but he bounced back this year.

            So what to make of all of this? Well, I tend to think of them as three different versions of a similar player. We have Danny Granger as the Offensive Model: a rangy 3 who uses his height and athleticism to get shots off from all over the floor, but a weak defender. At the other end we have the Defensive Model in Iguodala: smaller and stronger, he can play either 2 or 3 and always matches up against the best opposing wing. Of course, what breaks the mold is Iggy’s playmaking abilities. Deng seemed to be the Overall model, able to both lock down explosive wing players and create some offense in the right system.

            That bit about the right system is my other takeaway from this exercise. I firmly believe that any one of these players could thrive in the role that Deng is playing right now, as a third option on a good team. Certainly, Granger would struggle with the defensive responsibilities, and Iguodala would need to work on his range. But Granger would provide more pop offensively, making Rose even more dangerous, and Iggy would be able to share some of the ball-handling duties, allowing Rose to work off the ball more.

            Instead of a situation like Chicago, however, both Granger and Iguodala found themselves in situations where they were asked to be The Man, and have not proven equal to the task. I’m glad we were spared the spectacle of Deng similarly failing, but it certainly could have happened had the draft turned out differently.

            In final estimation, I’d put Iguodala at the top of the list: his playmaking and defense cancel out his lack of range. Then we have Deng, as our happy medium, and finally Granger. I already had misgivings about his defense and turnovers, and seeing some of his Hero Mode moments this series have solidified him as the low man on this particular totem pole.


PER courtesy of

Games Played and Minutes Per Game information courtesy of

All other statistics courtesy of NBA Statcube

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