David West made one bold move this week.
Recently sidelined by a gut-wrenching knee injury toward the end of the NBA’s regular season, West missed all of the Hornets’ surprisingly promising first-round mini-run against the Lakers and figures not to be 100 percent recovered until some time in November. West has a one-year, $7.5 million player option remaining on his contract. Given his condition and that of the CBA negotiations, it would have seemed wise for him to exercise that option and take that money.
Nope. He’s opting out.
There’s no doubt that West has played at a level worth more than $7.5 million annually over the last several years, so he and his agent must be somewhat confident that they can finagle a more lucrative deal out of some team lacking production at the power-forward position. It appears the Nets are near (or at) the top of that duo’s list of targets.
The Nets, looking to improve in any conceivable way, could definitely benefit from West’s contributions. He’s a solid scorer (devastating in the pick-and-pop, at least with Chris Paul running that show) and defender, two qualities the Nets are lacking in. All signs indicate he’s a good locker-room guy, so there wouldn’t be any prudent character issues to worry about. Feasibly, he could give the Nets another handful of wins on his own. And having another quality player like West in the rotation could sweeten the deal for the Nets’ home-run target, Dwight Howard.
Still, as Devin pointed out earlier today, he’s not a great rebounder, so pairing him with another not-great rebounder in Brook Lopez could have disastrous implications. But that’s not really the main concern. More relevant: it just doesn’t seem like a great investment to put a lot of money into a player who will turn 31 before next season is supposed to begin and is recovering from reconstructive knee surgery.
He might be able to keep up production for the length of his contract (after all, as John Hollinger professes, the two best indicators of career length are size and shooting ability: two areas in which West is gifted); he might start feeling the toll of the surgery next year. That uncertainty seems like a reason to stay away, especially since West won’t make the Nets a serious championship contender on his own.
There might be significant movement in the next CBA that would allow the Nets to offer a contract that isn’t as potentially as damaging as one in the current deal. If that’s the case, I could get behind inking West. But if he’s going to get a guaranteed five- or six-year deal in the $10 to $15 million range as would likely be the case if the contract were negotiated today, that’s a fiscal misstep by the team. And the LAST thing anyone concerned about the NBA needs is for a potential bust contract to be one of the first major deals negotiated under the new CBA, creating precedent for the same money issues the league and union are slogging through now.
Really, the situation with West is very similar to that with Kris Humphries. West is a better player, but he’s four-and-a-half years older and a much more real injury risk; he’d also likely demand more money. Both of these players are worth signing for the right price. But calculated restraint is really necessary in these negotiations. Breaking the bank for a 10- to 15-win boon without the possibility of a title isn’t what the Nets should be looking for under their five-year championship plan.