Player Preview: David West, Do Not Go Quietly into That Good Night

Mar 7, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Indiana Pacers power forward David West (21) reacts to a play during the second quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 7, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Indiana Pacers power forward David West (21) reacts to a play during the second quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports /

David West is getting old. No, I’m not just saying that because we saw him walking with a cane last week, but he’s 34 and he knows this is the beginning of the end. He’s the 35th oldest player in the NBA, and knows he’s on a team that isn’t going to compete this year for the title.  Perhaps what might be most frustrating for West is the fact that this year is a wash, but Paul George should be back and near 100% by the 2015-16 season. Unless he’s getting traded to a true contender, staying in Indiana still pairs him with a pair of All-Star players in PG and Hibbert. But he’ll be 36 then, and has a player option in that 2015-16 season.

Asking an old man to wait in his battle against Father Time may be a big ask, though.

Perhaps we’re worrying too much about West’s age, but is perhaps the biggest factor in his own future, as well as the Indiana Pacers. Is the 17-Foot Assassin going to be able to still be the knock-down shooter he’s always been? Most likely, as West’s game has never been based on over-the-top athleticism. Should we expect a slide in production this year? Yes, but not because he’s getting older. We’ll hit on it more down in the “How He Scores” section, but he needs teammates to get him the ball in the right places where he has room to shoot. This may be a strange year for West, but the seasoned professional still has plenty left in the tank and plenty to play for whether his future is in Indiana or some where else.

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But let’s get back to the here and the now. Indiana will need West to carry a lot more weight this year along with being the team’s captain. As Paul George rises in the league, it is easy to forget that the old man has played as big as role in the Pacers rebuilding. If you remember in 2012 when the Pacers won Game 2 of the Miami series, it was West telling the young Pacers to get off the court. It was West (and Rasual Butler) that took Roy Hibbert aside after the Game 1 loss to the Wizards last season and tried to straighten him out. George, Hibbert, and Lance Stephenson may have been the ones getting the headlines the past few years in Indiana, but it was West who was the general. That is something that isn’t going to change as he ages. He has build up a career’s worth of respect and very few players in the league, much less his own locker room, see the need to challenge that.

His role in the locker room won’t change, but his role on the court will. The question is how. There isn’t a lot of reason to think he playing the same role because he doesn’t have the same cast around him to get him the ball in the right positions. West won’t hesitate to lower his shoulder and physically intimidate opponents, but he can be a better player when that isn’t his only option to score. A more physical approach may be needed this season as George and Stephenson won’t be dribbling and driving to pull in defenders to open up the top of the key for West. Time will tell if C.J. Miles and Rodney Stuckey can do anything to replicate that this season, but until they prove it I’m assuming life will be more difficult for West. The veteran may be forced to grind more to get his points, and one could expect he’ll be doing the same on defense. The wing defense of Stephenson and PG will be hard to replicate, and shouldn’t be expected by their replacements. West may have to come out more to defend towards the wings and that will have ripple effects. The Pacers defense suffered last year when Roy Hibbert was force to play help defense to aid West. That is a major problem when Indiana’s defensive scheme is set up to have everyone funnel the action to Roy Hibbert. If West has to move out of the comfort zone he had one defense from last season and guard more towards the perimeter, it could have major consequences for the Association’s best defense. As William Furr points out below, another possibility is reduced minutes for West this season to reduce wear and tear. However with coach Frank Vogel’s up beat approach and optimistic outlook for the Pacers season and West’s competitiveness, I wouldn’t count on it.

That leadership may be more important than ever with Paul George likely gone of the season. West can serve as the glue that keeps the team from completely falling apart as they try to pick up the pieces from a off season from hell. That can be critical for a number of reasons. If Indiana is closer to the Philadelphia 76ers than the 8th seed, that could set in motion things like Hibbert (or even West himself) demanding a trade, or just panicky personnel moves. Even if no one plans on leaving town it will be better for the Pacers to have the chance to grow as a team than to be muddling around in lottery territory with no discernible direction. The Pacers might have something to play for if George returns late in the season. There is little chance of a deep playoff run, but carrying momentum in to the 2015-16 season can be just as important with both West and Hibbert’s player options on the table. If either feels like the team is closer to rebuilding than reloading, why would they want to stay?

Either way, West is the unquestioned leader of this outfit. His own will and determination can help determine if this year will be remembered as a complete and utter disaster, or be closer to the 2011 team that showed the it had plenty of fight in them. While West shouldn’t be held solely accountable for the fate of the team this season, he’ll be the leader of it either way. This can either be the Battle of Thermopylae or the Battle of Wounded Knee. This may not be West’s last stand, but he certainly has the odds stacked against him.

Update: West will miss at least three games to open the season.

– Ben Gibson (follow @CowboyOnPatrol)

Relevant GIF

David West
David West /

If you plan to follow the 2014-15 Indiana Pacers, you’ll need a sense of humor. Laugh so you don’t cry. And what’s funnier than Archer? Nothing. Nothing is the answer.

Key 2013-14 Stats

  • 14.0 points per game
  • 6.8 rebounds per game
  • 49.0% shooting
  • 52.1% shooting from between 16 feet and 3-point range — the only Pacer starter to shoot better than 40% from that zone

One Key Question

Is this David West’s last year, and if not, can he come back at a high level?

The Situation: David West turned 34 in August and knows he’s not long for this league. He plays a physically demanding position and doesn’t strike me as the type of athlete who will feel the need to hang on too long.

Best-case Scenario: The team holds together enough without Paul George to show West “the light” that he said went out when George got hurt. West decides to take to pick up his player option next summer, and his body holds up well enough to allow give him another chance at a deep playoff run.

Worst-case Scenario: West’s ankle injury is more serious that hoped or is a precursor of things to come. His body spends the year telling him it’s time to move on, and he does just that at the conclusion of the season, without getting an opportunity to battle in the playoffs one last time.

Prediction: George returns (at least to the practice court) before West has the chance to retire and talks him into running it back at least once more. West’s minutes are reduced during what is likely to be a lost year, keeping his legs fresh and convincing him to give it another go round.

– William Furr (follow @William_Furr)

How He Scores

David West
David West /

The above spiderweb chart shows, via Synergy Sports, what types of possessions lead to his points in 2013-14. (created by Tim Donahue, follow



David West relies on entry passes to get him the ball in the post or he’ll take it in his favorite position at the elbow on a mix of spot up plays or pick-and-rolls. He defies the idea that you shouldn’t take too many midrange shots because he’s accurate enough to make you pay from that range, shooting 52.1 percent. That need to get the ball is where the Pacers may run into issues if Stuckey, Miles, and any of the other guards can’t create a threat driving to the basket. The majority, 66.8 percent of West’s baskets last season, came off assists. There needs to be some action created to cause his defender to get caught playing help defense or pursuing the ball handler on pick-and-rolls. If there isn’t some motion on the play to free up West, then the Indiana offense could suffer heavily this season.

west-shotchart /

His 2013-14 shot chart, via Nylon Calculus

Let the 17-Foot Assassin be himself. You can see from all that red in the mid-range that he and the Pacers are much better off when he’s stretching out the power forwards and centers from beyond 10-feet. West can fight for baskets and drop his shoulder into defenders to create space, but that isn’t the best way to use him.

Sweatin’ Bullets

sweatin bullets
sweatin bullets /

Sweatin’ Bullets is an 8p9s tradition started by Jonny Auping in which we offer standalone facts, observations, and commentary, often devoid of context or fairness.

  • Westloves to make mixtapes for his teammates, saying that it is a healthy habit that keeps him “in the house and off [his] feet”, according to Wikipedia. He’s probably old enough he still does it on cassettes.
  • Last year he had a career best 99 defensive rating. Just another reminder that despite the amazing defensive efforts and early season success, 2013-14 will be a huge “what if” in Pacers history.

Further Reading