Stabilizing the first Domino: Making David West a Hornet for Life

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Published: February 21, 2011

In the summer of 2012 the face of the franchise, Chris Paul, has the option of voiding the final year of his contract and becoming a free agent. One full year before that, however, the Hornets other cornerstone piece will likely hit the open market, and his decision might be the one that impacts this franchise for years to come.

David West has often been called one of the most underrated players in the NBA, and he has outperformed his salary number for several years now. This season he is making just under 8.3 million, and he is having perhaps his best year of his career. A career, mind you, that includes two All-Star appearances. Meanwhile, there are several guys playing his same position, getting paid far more for doing far less. Troy Murphy is getting paid nearly 12 million this season to waste away on the bench in New Jersey. Elton Brand, who is similar in age to West, will get paid an average of 17 million per year for these next three years to do less than West. Boris Diaw is getting 9 million a year to eat at every restaurant in Charlotte.

When you look around the league, there are few guys who are not in their rookie contracts that give the value that David West gives to the Hornets. David West is a top 30 NBA player, if you take the All-Star game and the snubs as a gauge of who the top players are in the league right now. Take the 24 guys we saw last night, add LaMarcus Aldridge, Lamar Odom, David West, Monte Ellis, Jokim Noah, and Carlos Boozer- and you have the top 30 for the sake of this piece. Look at the salaries of all those players. Now eliminate those guys still on their rookie contract, and you will see that David West has the 2nd lowest salary behind Lakers reserve Lamar Odom, who makes $200,000 less than West this season.

West will be 30 this summer, and 31 as he enters his next NBA, meaning that this next deal will likely be his last sizeable NBA contract. Since David West signed his last contract, he has seen a slew of NBA power forwards sign lucritive contracts, and nobody could fault West if he would like to chase similar money. The question is whether there will be suitors willing to pony up contracts similar to what Carlos Boozer or Amare Stoudamire got this offseason.

Boozer was nearly two years younger than West will be when he signed his contract this offseason, and Amare was only 27 when he signed his deal. In that sense, the comparison is not apples to apples and you can also argue that Boozer and Stoudamire had more impressive raw stats than West, but to counter those advantages each of those guys had a history of injuries that David West simply does not have. Those red flags did not stop GM’s from salivating over the two stud power forward’s, as each received contracts with an average annual salary of over $16 million per year.

It is doubtful that the Hornets, or anyone else for that matter, would be willing to pay that much for David West, but it might be safe to assume that the price tag for West will reach at least $10-13 million annually if the new CBA is relatively similar to the current one. The fact is that power forward is a sought after position in the league, and this summer the crop of free agents will be relatively weak. Other than David West, there is only one sure fire starter likely to be available, and that is Memphis’s Zach Randolph, who is said to be seeking a contract similar to Pau Gasol’s 3 year/$57 million deal.

Carl Landry, Big Baby, and Kenyon Martin are serviceable power forwards who can either start or come off the bench, but none of them will be nearly as sought after as West. The question is: How much is West worth on the open market, and how much is he worth to the Hornets? Answering that question involves looking deeper into some other factors, such as:

Which teams might be in the market for David West?

In addition to answering this question, you also have to look for teams that West will be interested in joining. At this point in his career, he is unlikely going to want to go to a team that is in the initial stages of a rebuilding project. Therefore, the teams that are likely to pursue West and have the possibility of stealing him from the Hornets will have to meet three criteria: cap space, an open spot at power forward, and a roster that will be capable of contending in the immediate future.

Several teams can check off two of the three. Indiana and Sacramento will have holes at the power forward position and plenty of money to spend next offseason, but neither can legitimately call themselves contenders, even if they do add West. Sacramento has a nice nucleus in place that could benefit from a veteran like West, but their young guys have a long way to go before they learn how to become winners, and David West doesn’t have that kind of time left in his career.

Indiana could be intriguing to West, as he can be reunited with point guard Darren Collison, and joining a front line with Danny Granger and Roy Hibbert. The problem is that the East is loaded, and will become even stronger once Melo lands in NY or NJ, so Indiana’s ceiling would likely be a six or seven seed and a first round exit.

Orlando also has two of the three, as they are a legit contender with a hole at power forward, but the unfortunate part for them is that they will have no wiggle room financially. They can try to pry West away in a sign and trade, but there are no pieces that the Hornets would really want on that squad, and the Hornets can offer West far more than the Magic can if they just try to sign him outright.

So who is the biggest threat for David West? Is there a team that meets all three of the criteria? There is one, and only one that can give D West the money, the chance at a title, and the starting power forward spot- the Oklahoma City Thunder. OKC has Mo Pete and Nenad Krystic coming off the books, and other than Kevin Durant, every player on the team is either on a modest salary (Nick Collison) or on their rookie contract.

They face a tough decision with Jeff Green this summer, who is a RFA, but just does not fit what the team needs from the power forward position. If they decide to let Green go or make him a part of a trade, they can make an offer to David West that would be in the Carlos Boozer range, or close to it. The question for OKC, is what they think of Serge Ibaka. Is he a center, a power forward, or a guy they like better off the bench? From there they will likely decide whether to spend their money on Green, a center, or a power forward. If they choose the latter, West will likely be their number one target.

How long can we expect David West to play at this level?

David West’s game does not depend on athleticism as much as it does on savviness and guile. He is a crafty scorer who does not make a considerable impact on the defensive end or on the glass. His rebounding numbers have gone down every year since 07-08 (he is up .1 over last season, but I expect that to drop once Okafor gets back) but his points per shot and true shooting percentages have been consistent.

Many claim that David West is a poor man’s Karl Malone, and if that is the case, we can expect to see several more quality years from West. Malone’s statistics did not really take a serious dip until the 01-02 season, when he was 38 years old. Malone was able to remain so productive because he got to the free throw line, something that West does not do as well, but other than that the two were quite similar, as Malone took far less shots “at the rim” in the second half of his career, and instead stayed on the perimeter.

Conversely, Buck Williams, who also has some similarities in his game, faded at the age of 32 and declined every year following that season. Otis Thorpe, who had a similar body to David West and a reliable jumper, did not decline considerably until he was 35, and the guy I find most similar to D West (Terry Cummings) had a significant injury when he was 31 and went from being a quasi All-Star to a journeyman for his final seven years in the league.

It is a mixed bag, but West will likely stay at or around this level for at least three more years if he remains injury free. After that, he is likely to decline, but not at a drastic level, considering the fact that he stays in such good shape in the offseason. Barring injuries, there is no reason to believe that this will be a Peja or Posey situation, in which the Hornets will be stuck with a horrendous contract 2 or 3 years into the deal. Anything more than four years would be risky, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see David West racking up 16 and 6 on 50% shooting five years from now, which would still put him in the upper half of starting power forwards.

Will David West take a “home town discount?” Should the Hornets overpay West if they have to?

These are polar opposite ends of the spectrum, but the Hornets have to be prepared for both. Let’s tackle the home town discount one first. Imagine a scenario where West does not get an offer from a legit contender, and therefore must decide from a more lucrative offer from a team like Indiana or a more modest one from the Hornets. Which would he choose? More than the money, I think the deciding factor would be the stability that the Hornets could offer. Why would West be loyal to a team with no owner and no clear direction?

But if the ownership situation gets sorted out and the buyers are local, the Hornets become that much more intriguing to David West, and as long as the offer is competitive, it is likely that West would remain a Hornet. But what about the second question- should the Hornets overpay West if they have to? Let’s imagine that they set fair market value at 4 years and 42 million for David West. This seems reasonable considering the extensions that Noah and Aldridge recently signed with their teams. But is David West worth more to the Hornets than he is to anybody else, and if so, should he be paid as such?

Even with local ownership in place, it is hard to envision a scenario in which David West leaves and Chris Paul resigns with the Hornets a year later. While it is true that David West and Chris Paul have not always seen eye to eye, and CP3 gets frustrated from time to time with West’s effort and energy level, he still is the best player CP3 has ever played with as a Hornet and that will be difficult to replace. Not only is David West perhaps the best power forward in next summer’s UFA class, but after Melo signs, he might just be the best overall player.

Replacing West with a Carl Landry would set the Hornets back considerably, and using that money to add a shooting guard like Jason Richardson might upgrade that position, but not enough to offset the loss of West. Similarly, a sign and trade might fetch the Hornets some pieces back, but chemistry is as important as talent in this league, and there is no way that CP3 will develop the chemistry with his new sidekicks that he has with West. Going into the summer of 2012, the Hornets want to show Paul that they are on their way up, that they can and will contend for titles. If West leaves, and Paul has to play through a bumpy 2011-2012 season with an unfamiliar crew, he might be as good as gone.

With that in mind, it might be necessary for the Hornets to over pay West, either in annual salary or in years. Perhaps they will have to guarantee a 5th year in order to get him to stay. But first and foremost, they have to show him that they have some stability in their overall structure, and that starts with local ownership.

How will the new CBA effect the negotiations with D West?

That remains to be seen, but what we do know is that under the current CBA, it is nearly impossible for the Hornets to get an extension done with West. Because teams can only give their players a modest raise, the maximum that the Hornets can offer West does not equal what West and his agent deem he is worth. In that sense, the Hornets’ hands are tied until West voids the last year of his deal and the new CBA is worked out.

Many assume that the new CBA will have a hard cap, or something close to it, and if that is the case, the final number will go a long way in determining West’s future. The Hornets are committed to Jack, Paul, Ariza, and Okafor for $41 million next season and $44 million the following season. If the cap is around $60 million, as some expect, it might be hard to pay West and fill out the rest of the roster unless the Hornets can unload Ariza or Jack for cheaper alternatives.

The long and short of it is that David West potentially holds the future of Chris Paul in his hands, which in turn, determines the fate of this franchise. Cleveland has seen first hand what happens if you lose a mega-star, as their franchise value has dropped over $100 million and their performance on the court has been dreadful. If the Hornets believe that the future of Paul is partly tied in with the future of West, then they must secure that first domino, and save the rest from crashing down all around them.

26 comments
mikej
mikej

Re-sign D. West but TRY not to overpay. Gonna be hard. Btw, I don't see anyway that the Hornets keep CP3 outside of an intervention from above that drops a Top 10 Wing/Perimeter onto this team. I just don't see it but good luck anyway.....

thomas
thomas

hey remember the days when dan dickau ran the team it be terrible to go back to them days but, i kind of see it coming but we will rebuild that all we do is rebuild why not if anything maybe west for ibaka

42
42

Ah, yes. Dan Dickau. Those were the good old days, those were the good old days. The years go by, the memories fade, but those were the good old days.

thomas
thomas

i mean the man can rescue teddy bears from basket ball goals that got to be worth something

Stefan
Stefan

I'm happy. Now it's finally time for all the other trades to start happening.

42
42

Yeah. Let the trade fun begin . . . I started a Bring the News!: Trade Rumors, post-Carmelo over in the News section, along with a link to an article with the details (for commenting's sake). Enjoy.

sportnlife
sportnlife

After all of his sluggish play in recent weeks, CP3 was back in form Sunday. Why? Extra rest? No. He was surrounded by finishers. He could play his optimal game and he was clearly juiced by the opportunity. (D Rose, by the way, basically disappeared after the first few minutes because on a team with D Wade and LeBron, he wound up being 3rd guy to the ball more often than not. Meanwhile, Paul was going so good that even Kobe was looking to pass the ball to him.) The point is that games like this All Star contest and the build-up publicity, where CP3 was branded as the only player on a "Not Ready for Primetime Team," point to a really hard time keeping Paul in town next year. Ownership stability, as you say, is Job One, because without it, there's no possibility of any roster upgrades of a magnitude likely to satisfy Paul. If his recent injury struggles have taught CP3 anything, it's that nothing is promised. He would be in his thirties by the time a fourth contract comes around, and the new standard for how much of their career a superstar can afford to give a marginal, small market team before it's "cementing the legacy" time has been set now at 7 years, tops. So the question is whether D West is more valuable as a sign of reassurance for CP3 or if the freed-up cap space might be the better path to solidifying the PF slot. I recall clearly that this past summer the buzz on this site was that the CBA expiring and fear of a hard cap would flush a lot of high-ticket players onto the market right around now. So far, the opposite has happened. Uncertainty has made gm's play things close to the vest rather than try to shed assets to pare down their payrolls. Back in the summer I was arguing for a more aggressive front office approach in bringing in a few more quality pieces, but you guys were certain that the smart play was to wait until now. (So whuh happen?) My fear is that we may have missed the boat on any real opportunity to turn the corner in bringing in talent quick enough to hold onto Paul. Given the Shinn situation, maybe there were never going to be enough cards in the gm's deck to move any other way than he did. Maybe it was all just a dream. So the real question now may be, can New Orleans fandom hang on through a massive rebuilding process, and is a 4-year D West contract at a manageable $10-12m/ year still a good move for a rebuilding team? In other words, is it still movable in a $60m hard cap environment? Or, worse-case scenario, don't you also need SOMEBODY at a near-elite level to keep fans rooting for the team through the lean years?

bgalella
bgalella

David West would make a lot of teams better, but it has to be the number one priority in New Orleans to make sure he's a Hornet for a long time. He plays well no matter if he's getting the ball consistently or not.

Sincerely Yours96
Sincerely Yours96

Great Read. I like west alot and hope we keep him but idont think we shud overpay him. We cud find a replacement and win games without him. Hopefully we can keep him because he does factor in CP3's decision If u were demps and decided you wanted to trade West because u were unsure he was coming back, who wud u approach? I

BIGBREED
BIGBREED

If you're going to disagree w/ me, disagree by proving me wrong. The article talks about him being underrated as a player in the NBA and how he his salary wasn't up to par w/ the other NBA Top 30 players. WELL...... if thats what the media and fans are saying, what do you think he and his agent will say? Go back a reread the article bcuz we all know what type of contract he will shoot for.........15MIL, I've got 2 words for you "Underpaid" and "Allstar"!

BIGBREED
BIGBREED

Honestly, if there was a way to keep CP3 w/o keeping DWest, I'll let DWest go. Bcuz... -he's 30yrs of age, which will cause us to over pay him(plus he has a BAD BACK) -he has "MAXED OUT" on his talents as a player(committing $15MIL for 5yrs to a player who's talents are 1 to 2yrs from declining, is a REACH) -he isnt a complete player(inconsistant w/ his defense & his REB) But CP3 and DWest are tight as glue and if you lose one, then the other will go. and his positives are.... -he's a leader(silent leader) -he show's up to every game(hardly injuried and never takes a nite off) -very consistant w/ his offensive game as a PF(TOP 5 offensive PF's in the NBA) [To cap it off] I'll give him a contract(pending New CBA) thats truly his value being 30yrs old in the NBA, but i wouldn't break the bank for an aging player just to keep him!

Hornet
Hornet

I don't think anyone is thinking of giving him $15 million. I think he's probably going to get 10-11 million for 4 years which isn't much of a stretch at all.

BIGBREED
BIGBREED

You don't know what he'll get, none of us do! its all pending on the New CBA

MJL
MJL

IMO you offer him a 3yr 33m deal and see what happens. I think Okc is highly possible though. If jeff green can come our way you get him. If Chris Paul still decides to leave, thats ok too because their will be a young hungry player waiting for a chance to shine.

42
42

So much attention, thought, and words paid to D West warms my heart. Thanks.

Dontae
Dontae

Yes he's a good player but I don't think he's good as everyone makes him seem. We could win games without him. I can't believe I'm saying this but Jason Smith can make the jumper West takes and if Smith was starting he would probably have similar stats to West's. I don't think West's decision has anything to do with CP3 because I believe he's leaving either way. The Hornets better get all they can while they can. They're gonna need it once Chris Paul is gone.

Edbballin504
Edbballin504

I think West is more than just stats though on this team. He's almost like the heart of the team. I cant believe I am saying this, but to me, he's been more important than CP3 this season. But to go along with my comment about going all in right now, I think that would involved trading West to bring back other peices that can make a bigger immediate impact on us winning now. Might not be best long term for the team, but I think we have to panic and take a chance now.

Dontae
Dontae

Really? David West is more important than Chris Paul?..

Zeiram
Zeiram

This situation is a mess all over. Clearly as you said, if you lose West chances are Paul is gone. But if you keep him... you´ll probably won´t win anything. Here is the thing, West is good in fact he would be the perfect 3rd man onasol a champion. Steady, has good chemistry with the star, will occasionally win a game by himself. He is like Odom, (although for different reason) you are doomed if he is your second in command but as your 3rd man he will make you very happy. The problem is just that with his (totally deserved) new contract and Pauls and a new CBA there is no space for the 2nd man. Unless someone gifts you something in a Gasol-type deal the Hornets would look at several more years of semi-contention (assuming Paul stays). So the question will be, what do you choose? Rebuild completely (and probably lose Paul) with a chance to one day, down the road become relevant again or Be successful but ultimately meaningless for a few years before falling down hard (ala Pistons the last few years)? So what´s it gonna be NO?

Edbballin504
Edbballin504

I would go all in and take bad contracts, older players, etc that will cause this team to win the next few years and compete for a title...similiar to what BOS did to form their big 3. That is the only way this city will win. We have to build via trades, b/c no free agent will freely chose NOLA as his home. If we take it slow and look to financial flexibility, the draft, and too much on the future, we lose b/c CP3 will leave and we start over. We must go all in now...high risk usually equals high rewards if we are lucky. To me we have nothing to lose. Its unfortunate but its the only option.

Hornet
Hornet

I'm not sure West can't be the 2nd best player on a contender. He was 3 years ago, and he's playing better than ever. Chicago is a contender and Boozer is their 2nd best player who is right around West's level. It's all about the pieces around the top 2.

Hornet
Hornet

Chicago is definintely a contender. I guarantee they will give Boston a tougher series than Miami will, and would beat Miami in a 7 game series. Hornets were one game away from the WCF with a line up that featured Mo Pete as a starter, Peja past his prime, and by far the worst bench in the NBA. If that team had a better bench or a better SG than I think that team could definintely had made it to the Finals or at least take the Lakers to 7. Looking at the team we have now, if Paul can ever get back to 07-09 form or even close to that (just 20 and 10), then we're talking Finals considering the Lakers' window ends this year once Phil Jackson is gone.

Zeiram
Zeiram

@Hornet I´m sorry but Chi is no championship contender, not this year and it is exactly because Booz is their 2nd man. If Deng or Noah were to make a leap and relegate Boozer to 3rd than yes. And no West wasn´t 3 years ago, not because he was not good enough but because NO was no contender back then. I am talking about a true contender, no Chi, Dallas semi-contending. Right now there are 4 teams with a real shot (Mia,Lal,Sas,Bos) and then there is the rest. I stand by assesement keep West and if Paul stays you are looking for a couple of years between first round exit and Conference final high. Lose him and you will lose Paul and be the 2010-2011 Cavs.

Edbballin504
Edbballin504

Wow, David West in OKC is a match made in heaven. That team would be scary good IMO.

Edbballin504
Edbballin504

...but I really hope we can keep West. I always liked him for what he brings to the table for this team and alongside CP3. Most people rather see him replaced, but I always say that the day West leaves is the day this team is done. He's more important than people think. Most only focus on the areas he is lacking in, and not the many ways he helps the Hornets. I say you build around him to address his weaknesses, and build a team of complements. Alone West might not be the best low post treat, but with a center that plays good help D, crashes the board, and lets West do his thing on offense, then you have a successful 2 headed monster. Chandler was perfect, Okafor is improving. Bottom line, keep West no matter what it takes or this team won't even compete for the playoffs, even with a healthy CP3.