The Warriors seem like a lot of people’s favorites to win the NBA championship next season. There might be no greater indication of their preeminence than the fact that David West decided to sign with them.
Last offseason, West famously forfeited about $10 million to leave the Pacers and sign with the Spurs, presumably to try to chase a championship.
The Spurs won an impressive 67 games during the regular season, but looked sluggish in the Western Conference semifinals against a much more athletic Thunder team.
It was interesting that West gave up on his Spurs experiment just one year into it, deciding to opt out and become a free agent again.
To take a discount to join the Spurs also sacrificed a lot of his future earnings power. With a bench role, his numbers weren’t going to look as lofty, and any last hefty contracts before retirement were out of the question.
Of course, he was also entering his mid-to-late 30s, so I’m not sure how much more he would have commanded, although I’m confident that in this market, he could have gotten more than the $1.55 million the Warriors signed him for from another team.
He has never won a championship, and at this point seems to be focusing all his efforts on obtaining that last goal.
Clearly he views the Warriors as superior to the Spurs in the Western Conference, and being as close to the Spurs as he was, it’s a statement that needs to be taken seriously, considering that the Spurs might end up being one of the Warriors’ toughest adversaries in the Western Conference.
I’m really excited about West joining the Warriors. He’s probably going to end up taking a lot of Marreese Speights’ minutes, and even though he’s 36, he’s still especially solid as a bench option.
The numbers over his career show that he’s a better 10-15 ft. as well as 16 ft.- 3-point line shooter than Speights, the latter of which Speights especially excelled at.
While Speights wasn’t talented enough on defense to be trusted for long stretches of time, West was not only a key component on some extremely formidable Pacers defenses, but lead the Spurs’ second unit defense last season.
Speights averaged the least amount of minutes per game in the NBA Finals amongst Warriors players who made appearances, epitomizing his limitations on the court in given situations.
West’s doggedness and gritty resolve fits in whichever team he’s on, and will undoubtedly endear himself to fans with his work ethic and bruising style, even if he’s not quite the All Star of 8-9 years ago.
At his peak, West was always one of those players who probably functioned optimally as the second-option on a team, which is the role he played with Chris Paul on some successful Hornets teams.
West has impressive individual accolades at this point, but winning a championship would certainly be a nice detail to add to his list of accomplishments.
West was born in Teaneck, New Jersey and played high school ball at both Garner Magnet High School in Garner, North Carolina as well as Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Virginia.
During his senior year at Hargrave, he made First Team All-State honors, and decided to attend Xavier University.
During his freshman year at Xavier, he lead the Atlantic 10 in rebounding and made the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team.
He improved in his sophomore season, ranking 4th in the country in rebounds per game and winning the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Award.
He repeated as A-10 Player of the Year as a junior, and also won A-10 Defensive Player of the Year.
West’s best season was probably his senior year, though. He averaged 20.1 points per game, 11.8 rebounds per game, 3.2 assists per game, 1.6 blocks per game, and 1.3 steals per game.
He won A-10 Player of the Year for the 3rd straight season, and also was named the AP National Player of the Year and the United States Basketball Writers Association National Player of the Year.
West was also named by the AP as a First Team All-American, and left Xavier as one of its most accomplished players ever.
In 2007, Sports Illustrated named West to its All-Decade Team for the 2000s, along with Jay Williams, J.J. Redick, Shane Battier, and Emeka Okafor.
He became just the 4th player in school history to be drafted in the first round, going 18th overall to the New Orleans Hornets in 2003.
West spent his first 2 seasons with the Hornets as a bench player, but got a full time opportunity to start beginning in the 2005-2006 season.
In fact, he’d end up going the next 10 seasons without coming off the bench, further illustrating his adaptability as a player after joining the Spurs last season.
As a starter for the Hornets for 6 seasons, he was extremely consistent, never averaging less than 17 points per game or 7 rebounds per game.
His scoring and rebounding career highs came during his 2 All Star seasons of 2008 and 2009.
In 2007-2008, he averaged 8.9 rebounds per game, and in 2008-2009, he scored 21.0 points per game.
His range for points per game was about 17-21, and his range for rebounding was about 7-9. You knew exactly what you were getting from him on a nightly basis.
West also became a much better free throw shooter as a starter with the Hornets. In his 2 seasons as a reserve, he shot 71.3% and 68.0% on free throws.
After becoming a starter for the Hornets, he never shot less than 80% for a season again, including a career best 88.4% in 2008-2009.
During the 2011 offseason, West decided to opt out of his deal with the Hornets, and signed with the Pacers.
He remains the New Orleans franchise leader in games, points, rebounds, and personal fouls, and played an integral role in the team’s history.
His numbers dipped with the Pacers, but he was still an important complementary player, particularly helping the team establish an intimidating defensive identity.
The most points he averaged per game with the Pacers was 17.1 during the 2012-2013 season, settling into the low teens in his other Pacers years.
His rebounding numbers dropped off slightly as well, but it’s important to keep in mind that he wasn’t playing as many minutes as he was in New Orleans.
It was after 4 seasons in Indiana that he must have had some sort of epiphany, because he opted out of a contract that would have paid him about $12 million to join the Spurs for essentially the league minimum.
Fans often chastise players for only caring about money, as if economic incentive is some phenomenon unique to the sports world.
When West made the great fiscal sacrifice to join the Spurs, it was met with a good portion of praise, but also more derision than I anticipated.
Apparently West was “foolish” to leave that much money on the table, considering that he was old enough that it made it unlikely he’d ever be able to cash in to that extent again.
I heard this sentiment not more often than the applause, but often enough that it really troubled me.
It’s as if players can’t do anything right in certain fans’ eyes: they either care only about money, or are financially stupid.
It’s these mixed signals getting sent that make it very hard to take fans seriously when critiquing these athletes’ free agency or contractual decisions.
Remember when Ricky Williams signed his rookie deal with the Saints that had very little guaranteed money and was largely incentive based?
In an environment of inflated contracts, especially for rookies who hadn’t yet proven anything on the professional level, an athlete doing this would theoretically have been met with acclaim, especially considering how indignant large portions of the fan base are about some of these money sums.
Instead, Williams was largely pitied for his ignorance or simply laughed at for being “dumb.” Fans like that just seem to enjoy hassling these athletes for whatever reason.
Of course, football is different than basketball, due to contractual details as well as one carrying more severe injury risk than the other.
Still, players need to be respected more for the choices they make. Just because it’s not necessarily the decision a fan would make, doesn’t mean the player is ignorant or misguided.
Again, the majority of fan response from the West decision was positive, but it should have been much closer to unanimous adoration than it ended up being.
West’s recent decisions are indicative of his commitment to team success. The Warriors added not only a talented player on both ends of the court, but a vocal leader who prioritizes winning above all else.