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Andre Iguodala trade improves the Nuggets -- and makes the Lakers even better

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You'd think the fact that a member of America's Olympic men's basketball team was traded amid its latest gold-medal run would be a headline item rather than a footnote. But the Nuggets' acquisition of Andre Iguodala late yesterday is parenthetical in a four-team deal that sends Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers. So is this good or bad news for the Nuggets? In my opinion, the former -- but that's not to discount the drawbacks.

Iguodala was rumored to come to the Nuggets once before. As we reported in 2010, the longtime 76ers star was part of a proposed three-team trade involving Carmelo Anthony. As I wrote at the time:

Iguodala's no Melo, but given the other pieces the Nuggets still command, the team would be at least competitive and potentially better than that. New GM Masai Ujiri shouldn't dismiss this idea out of hand -- especially if his alternate strategy involves wishin' and-a hopin' that Anthony learns to love Denver again.

Clearly, the latter didn't happen -- but when Anthony finally was traded, to the New York Knicks, the Nuggets wound up with several more building blocks, including Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler (plus giant block of wood Timofey Mozgov). Adding Iguodala, a defensive stopper who can score, to a mix featuring these players, as well as emerging point guard Ty Lawson, budding superstar Kenneth Faried and athletic, frequently hilarious JaVale McGee results in a pretty formidable lineup.

Of course, this roster can't compare with the one the Lakers now have. Not only did L.A. managers add Howard, indisputably the premier center in the league, but they were able to do so without having to get rid of Pau Gasol, who may have disappeared in the playoffs last year but remains an ideal complimentary player on a squad that desperately needs one given star Kobe Bryant's allergy to a little thing called passing.

On top of that, the Nugs had to give up two fine members: Big Al Harrington, who has a better-than-decent long-distance stroke and showed loads of gumption late last year, when he essentially outplayed a lot of his teammates on one leg, and Arron Afflalo, a relative youngster with the potential of developing into an Iguodala-like player. Note that he actually had a higher scoring average than did Andre last year -- although Iggy's career stats show that he's put up a lot more points in the past than the twelve or so he put up per game in the most recent campaign.

But what Iguodala brings to the table beyond his skills is leadership, which the Nuggets desperately need. During last year's playoff run, it was obvious the Nugs were a bit amorphous, with lots of talent but nothing to hold it together. Iguodala, who's been the face and the heart of the 76ers ever since the departure of that other AI -- Allen Iverson, whose stint with the Nuggets didn't work out as well as hoped -- can deliver that and more. And he's already done at least one thing to endear himself to Denver fans, tweeting this from the Olympics last week:

Not any official Twitter reaction to the trade from Iguodala, although I think his latest tweet may qualify as an allusion:

We echo those words, even if competing against the Lakers just got that much harder.

More from our Sports archive circa September 2010: "Carmelo Anthony-Andre Iguodala trade in 3-way deal with Nuggets, NJ Nets, Philadelphia 76ers?"

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