Any other summer, David West’s decision to opt out of his contract and become a free agent would not have batted an eye. The eight year pro established himself as a borderline All Star alongside Chris Paul. He averaged 18.9 points per game on 50.8 percent field goal shooting and 55.8 percent true shooting percentage. West was a perfect pick and roll option to go along with Paul as a proficient post scorer and a solid mid-range shooter.
He was set for his payday to come with his early termination option due in 2011. He likely was going to set the market as one of the top free agents available.
Then he tore his ACL with 12 games remaining in the season. His season was over. The Hornets were left scrambling to fill a post presence to battle the extremely tall Lakers — and held out admirably for six games. It is too difficult to figure out if David West might have ended the Lakers season even earlier than it did.
Recovering from a torn ACL and facing an uncertain labor future, now does not seem like the time to test the market. Even on a below-market rate contract that paid him just less than $8.3 million in 2011.
It is hard to figure out if West could make that kind of money whenever free agency would begin. Coming off a torn ACL and rehab makes the picture a little bit more cloudy. Not that West will not catch a high price.
He said he is progressing well in his rehabilitation from the injury and should be ready to play if and when the upcoming season starts up.
Either way he will garner interest. New Orleans will be out to re-sign him, but Indiana and New Jersey figure to be the front runners to try and pluck him away. For a team like the Nets or Pacers, West is the kind of player that can push them to the next level in their rebuilding projects. That is, of course, if he is truly healthy.
Even though West is looking for, and will likely get, his pay day, this moves just seems so curious. There are so many ifs for the free agents entering this summer. None moreso than West. ACL injuries are not easy to come back from. A lot of pro athletes do it now, but it is still an injury that takes almost a full season to completely recover from.
West is banking on being able to play when the season starts and being able to make the same type of money or more when free agency starts. West very well could be the test case for what the new NBA market is like.
Players like West appear to be the problem with the current collective bargaining agreement. He is a borderline All Star with a recent injury that should be enough to scare away high bidders, except one. If there was ever a time to protect owners from themselves, this might be it.
Likely even under a new collective bargaining agreement, somebody is going to take the risk that West is healthy enough and ready to take on a bigger role. Perhaps even remove the borderline from All Star next to his name. We will not know until he puts pen to paper and the season actually starts.
David West though is the first one to step bravely into the new world.
Photo via DayLife.com.