Top 50: David West, no. 46

by Allen Powell II

There are certain things David West doesn’t do.

Like, say rebounding for instance. Despite being a 6-8 power forward, West’s rebounding average has never cracked 9, and the past two years he’s hovered around 7.5 boards per game for the New Orleans Hornets. The free-agent forward also isn’t too partial to defense, posting up or driving the paint.

Some fans look at those characteristics and determine that West is an overrated bum, or possibly even soft. They may think the Hornets would be fools to re-sign the power forward, and instead should stick with his less costly, less effective clone Carl Landry. Sadly, this only proves that myopia can make you look silly.

Instead of focusing on what David West doesn’t do, fans should pay closer attention to what the undersized forward brings to the table. There is a reason why David West has been on SLAMonline’s Top 50 list for the past few years.

Simply put, no power forward in the League is a better mid-range shooter than West, and yes, I do realize that Dirk still plays power forward. West’s jumper is that nice. Honestly, if he had Dirk’s height, he’d be getting the same uber-love the big German has been enjoying for years.

And those complaints about West being soft are off base. Some fans see a player who won’t post up and doesn’t hit the glass and think that he’s afraid of contact, or he shrinks from the big moment. Not so with West, who loves big shots. Instead, his contact avoidance is not based in fear or laziness, but self preservation. At 240 pounds he’s actually smaller than LeBron James and Ron Artest, and as Kareem Adul-Jabbar once said, you try running into 280-300-pound men for two hours with no padding and see how much you like it.

Take a look at West’s statistics and spend some time watching his game. Notice how defenders either stay attached to his hip, or aggressively close him out every time he touches the ball? Do you see how Chris Paul is perfectly comfortable allowing West to isolate on the foul-line extended?

West’s jumper creates scoring opportunities for his teammates and driving lanes for Paul. When the Lakers visited New Orleans late last season, West dueled Pau Gasol to a standstill in the first half, and it was only late in the game that the Spaniard’s length began to take its toll.

West wouldn’t get the sort of respect he gets from the best point guard in the League if he didn’t deserve it. By going from a mid-first round tweener without a definite position, to a NBA-caliber tweener who is nightly matchup nightmare, West has earned the appreciation of his teammates and opponents.

As the Hornets decide what to do about West, the team would be well-served by not allowing his flaws to blind them to his still considerable talents. Maybe West shouldn’t be the second best player on a championship contender, but he definitely has value. Those people who believe it would be better for all involved if West just rode off into the sunset are mistaken.

Some folks really need to open their eyes.

SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2011
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Luol Deng Bulls SF 8
49 Andrew Bogut Bucks C 7
48 Ray Allen Celtics SG 9
47 Marc Gasol Grizzlies C 6
46 David West Hornets PF 15

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’11-12 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Maurice Bobb, Shannon Booher, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Jon Jaques, Eldon Khorshidi, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Quinn Peterson, Dave Schnur, Abe Schwadron, Dan Shapiro, Irv Soonachan, Todd Spehr, Tzvi Twersky, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Ben York.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.