David West retires, finishing a strong career

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 10: Tyrone Wallace
OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 10: Tyrone Wallace /

He may not be a Hall-of-Famer, but David West is calling it a day on a very good career, and people should take notice of that.

After 15 years in the NBA, David West had decided to call it a career. West averaged 13.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game over the course of his career, numbers that had dropped off to 6.8 and 3.3 respectively by last year, in part due to seeing some of the fewest minutes of his career at 13.7 per game.

West was primarily known for his mid-range jump shot, taking 28.7 percent of his shots from 16 feet out but inside of the 3-point line. He also made 47.3 percent of those shots over the course of his career, a number well above league average. But he was also an extremely effective rebounder and defender, who could adapt his role well to whatever team he was on.

West is one of the unique players in the league who has three completely separate but memorable stretches with different teams in the league.

He started his career in New Orleans, where he was the strong second banana to a young Chris Paul, finishing pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops at a high enough rate to earn him two All-Star appearances. Unfortunately, a combination of injury issues for Chris Paul, a tenuous ownership situation including, at one point, league ownership, and the ridiculous strength of the mid-2000’s Western Conference kept those Hornets from ever getting over the top, and on Dec. 14, 2011, right before the start of the abbreviated post lock-out season and the day that Chris Paul was actually formally traded, West signed as a free agent with the Pacers.

And with the Pacers, at the age of thirty, he joined a collection of much more evenly distributed talent as the grizzled, but still competent, veteran leadership. The Pacers eventual starting five of George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West, and Roy Hibbert contained four players that were either previously All-Stars (West), would eventually gain an All-Star appearance (George, Hibbert), or got remarkably close (Stephenson). George Hill was hardly a slouch either, but he took more of a back seat, acting as a glue guy for most of that time. And those Pacers, like the Hornets, were one of the best recent iterations of the franchise, beating everyone other than the LeBron James-lead Heat. When the Pacers window finally closed due to a number of factors (Lance Stephenson left in free agency, the game evolved past Roy Hibbert’s ability to move his feet, Paul George graphically broke his leg on national television, etc.), West saw that his time there was ending, and went “ring-chasing”.

First, he signed with the Spurs, only two years removed from their last NBA championship. With West, the Spurs would win 67 games, the most in their franchise history. In the playoffs, however, the Spurs ran into an Oklahoma City Thunder team in the last year of the Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook era, and the Spurs couldn’t handle the sheer athleticism with their aging core of bigs, losing four games to two. After one year, West left for the Golden State Warriors. And with the Warriors, though he was used sporadically, West was a key bench piece. In the context of his small minutes per game, he was consistently among the league leaders in lineup based stats like ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus, in part because for the small stretches that he was able to play, the Warriors would absolutely blitz opponents. And while that couldn’t necessarily translate to a larger role at that stage of his career, he was still fairly valuable, and West was rewarded with the two rings he was denied earlier in his career as a result.

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Overall, West will be a weird case for how we remember him. He was probably never the best player on a team, since he broke out the same year that Chris Paul entered as a rookie, and had his two All-Star seasons the two years that Paul was having what were possibly two top 25 all-time seasons. He also didn’t necessarily suit the modern era where most power forwards can shoot the 3-pointer. But at the same time, he was gritty, tough, and imminently coachable, and teams got better because of him repeatedly, no matter what stage of his career he was at. He won’t make the Hall of Fame, sure, but he was still very good and deserves to be remembered in twenty years.