David West took a risk Monday when he announced he was opting out of his current contract with the New Orleans Hornets to file for free agency.
It’s a gamble for West in a couple of respects. He’s coming off surgery after tearing the ACL in his left knee on March 24.
And he’s also putting aside a chance to earn $7.5 million this season with the Hornets in order to test the free agent market in perhaps the league’s most uncertain economic time ever.
West was in the midst of having a quality season when he went down with his knee injury, averaging a team-leading 18.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game for the Hornets before missing the final 10 games of the season and the playoffs.
He’s been rehabbing from his injury twice a day and is said to be ahead of schedule as he works at his off-season home in Raleigh, N.C., to prepare for the upcoming season. The injury was expected to idle him for six to eight months, but an extended lockout would obviously give him extra time to prepare as he readies himself for the 2011-12 season.
The most interesting comment he made in a story this morning in the New Orleans Times-Picayune is the primary reason he would potentially bolt from the Hornets.
“I want to win and win big,” West , adding that he decided on his move before the injury.
A team that would fill his need would be the Spurs, coming off a 61-21 season that was the best in the Western Conference before an unexpected first-round series loss to Memphis in the playoffs.
There’s no way that the Spurs could land West the way the NBA’s economic model is currently structured. With too much money tied up into long-term contracts with the core of the team, the Spurs would have to go far over the luxury tax to sign West — a not-so-palatable alternative for team owner Peter Holt.
But who knows how the league’s economic model will be structured after the lockout and the eventual settlement. There might be a way for the Spurs and West to come together — particularly if the Spurs have a chance to offer him similar money to most of the other potential teams where he would play.
West is an outstanding outside shooter with range up to 20 feet with a strong array of inside moves. He turned 30 in April and would provide a strong inside presence that would go well with Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter. West is not the best interior defender, but thrived in Monty Williams’ team defense that limited opponents to 94 points per game to rank fifth in the league.
But there’s also a point of view among some NBA scouts that West’s offensive production has been boosted over the years by playing with Chris Paul with the Hornets.
Most observers have West ranked as the fourth-best potential free agent of this season’s class, trailingly only Nene, Marc Gasol and Tyson Chandler. He’s the best free agent available at power forward — even coming off the injury.
And he’s exactly the kind of player the Spurs desparately need if they want to contend for the NBA title.
But it will be interesting to see what kind of demand there is for West after the lockout ends.
What about it Spurs Nation?
Would you like to see West teaming inside with Duncan and Splitter in a retooled Spurs inside rotation?
And most importantly, is he worth the financial risk considering his age and injury concerns?