by Eddie Maisonet, III / @edthesportsfan

Some players will never truly be appreciated.

Riddle me this, David West was named First Team All-American his senior year and the 2003 Associated Press National Player of the Year, averaged 20.1 ppg and 11.8 rpg while at Xavier University. Yet the man was not perceived to be one of the top picks in the ballyhooed 2003 NBA Draft, how can that be?

Here’s what ESPN NBA Draft expert Chad Ford had to say about the Hornets’ pDavid Westick back in ’03:

“David West is a solid pick. He’ll contribute a little in year one, get some rebounds and block some shots. He’s a poor man’s PJ Brown. They didn’t shoot for the moon on this pick, nor did they stick out their necks.”

A poor man’s PJ Brown? Are you serious?

At a modest 6-9, 240 pounds, it seems that West has always played like he’s had a chip on his shoulder, and for good reason. When he finished his stellar high school career at Hargrave Military Academy, none of the top collegiate programs came calling. He signed with Xavier, a program who’s consistently overlooked and labeled a mid-major. But West went to a program also acts like it has a chip on its shoulder. A program that’s always looking for respect, a program that hates being called a mid-major, and because of it it was a match made in heaven.

As a Hornet, West’s focus hasn’t changed, and as he tried to figure out it out in his first two years, the Hornets were led by Mr. Too Easy aka Baron Davis. Those teams were (sorta) loaded in the frontcourt with proven guys like PJ Brown, Jamaal Magloire and Lee Nailon. But that all changed when the Hornets were able to land the best point guard of this generation in Chris Paul. Some trades, some free agents not re-signed, and some philosophical changes later, David West was the starting power forward for the New Orleans Hornets.

DWest hasn’t looked back ever since.

Two-time All-Star in 2008 and 2009, he’s consistently put up 20 points and 8 rebounds a game. As Chris Paul stated, “He’s not in it for the spotlight, all he cares about is getting buckets.” So why does the man still not get respect? Some say that if Chris Paul wasn’t there then David West wouldn’t be the player he is today, and that’s probably a fair point. But no one’s ever said how good of a player would Chris Paul be if David West wasn’t there, right? The Hornets have asked this man to play center, be a distributor, be their best interior defender, walk the dog, cook dinner for the kids, and build a tree house and the man has gone out there and done it.

OK, I made the last three up, but the man is an over-achiever. He’s not the biggest, he’s not the fastest, nor the strongest, but the man goes out there and gets it done. He can hit you with the mid-range, he can kill you on the boards, he can work the pick and roll, and more importantly he can be a leader on your team. The future is unclear for Mr. West. Some pundits say that for the Hornets to stay financially steady and in any position to re-sign Chris Paul, they have to clear cap room. Other folks say that the Hornets need a youth revival and that West, now age 30, is about to hit the downside of his career.

If I was David West, I’d just have to hit that next song on the iPod, you know…the one by the artist that shares the same last name. Play that Kanye, and tell ‘em that, “We Major, come on homie we major, we major. Come on.”

SLAMonline TOP 50 PLAYERSOVERALL RANKPOSITION RANK
PlayerTeamPosition2010200920102009
Ray AllenCelticsSG50361110
Gilbert ArenasWizardsSG4934109
Lamar OdomLakersPF48331410
John WallWizardsPG47NR13NR
OJ MayoGrizzliesSG4646912
Al HorfordHawksC45NR6NR
Jason KiddMavsPG44451210
Joakim NoahBullsC43NR5NR
LaMarcus AldridgeBlazersPF42391312
David WestHornetsPF4131128

Notes
• Rankings are based solely on projected ’10-11 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jeremy Bauman, Maurice Bobb, Erildas Budraitis, Sean Ceglinsky, Ben Collins, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Manny Maduakolam, Eddie Maisonet, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Charles Peach, Branden Peters, Quinn Peterson, David Schnur, Todd Spehr, Kyle Stack, Adam Sweeney, Dennis Tarwood, Tracy Weissenberg, Lang Whitaker, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.