David West Is Old and Fading, But He Still Had a Lot to Give This Year

Mar 14, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward David West (21) reacts after he cannot come up with a deflected pass against the Boston Celtics at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Boston defeats Indiana 93-89. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 14, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward David West (21) reacts after he cannot come up with a deflected pass against the Boston Celtics at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Boston defeats Indiana 93-89. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

“Father Time is undefeated” is a phrase often said on former Indiana Pacer Jalen Rose’s podcast. Time, and more specifically his age, might be David West’s toughest opponent the next few seasons.

West knows his days in the NBA are numbered, and it had to be disheartening for him to know Indiana was D.O.A. before the season started. As soon as Paul George broke his leg, West knew he would be throwing his old, beat-up body into the fire all season on quest that ultimately wasn’t going anywhere — at least not compared to the title hopes the team has had the past two years.

His numbers were down per game, per 100 possessions, and any other way you might slice it. Without George Hill for nearly half the season, West wasn’t in his usual comfort zone, and it showed with his shooting numbers dropping. He hit just 47.1% this season, which is the first time in Indiana that he has dipped below 48.7%. It isn’t a cataclysmic fall, but it reflects what we saw on the court: a player who just looked a year older, a year slower, and a year closer to not being able to score like the David West the NBA has come to know

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Just because he declined doesn’t mean he didn’t play well, however. West’s season wasn’t one of his best, but he’s still got a lot left to give and he broadened his repertoire some, electing to be a facilitator at the elbow more to set up shooters and cutters rather than throw his aging body into the lane to try to create something out of nothing.

There was another wrinkle to his season as well: West was dangled out in trades before the All-Star break, but ultimately no one pulled the trigger to move West to an contender.

He may still be traded this summer if Indiana is still looking to move one of their veteran players. David West wouldn’t be accused of lacking mental toughness, but it doesn’t help any to know you may not be wearing the same uniform a few weeks and months from now. Of course, if West chooses not to opt out of his contract and become a free agent this summer, all of that is irrelevant as far as his future with the team.

The money will most likely be best for West in Indiana, though, so unless he knows a title contender wants him, there is incentive in him staying. And even if he doesn’t care much about the money (he will make $12 million next year if he stays), he doesn’t seem the type to chase a ring.

He knows Indiana will be better next season with Paul George playing instead of interning. Even without Paul George, Indiana was close to making the playoffs and will be much more of a threat to teams with stability in the line-up.

If he does stay he may be seeing less fewer minutes, as the Indiana Pacers say they want to go smaller and occasionally play Paul George at power forward. That may serve West well as he can focus on being the 17-Foot Assassin and hitting his shots from the top of the key while perhaps having a bit more energy to get back into the lane some, too. All told, less minutes will most likely benefit an aging West as he can save his energy and do what he does best.

Relevant GIF

David West
David West /

Key 2014-15 Stats

  • 16.0 player efficiency rating (PER)
  • 11.7 points per game
  • 6.8 rebounds per game
  • 47.4  eFG%
  • 21.0% usage rate

What Went Right, What Went Wrong

David West had his best season as a passer out of the post with a career high 3.4 assist per a game. It is no surprise that 70 of his 223 assists on the season went to pick-and-roll partner George Hill, while Rodney Stuckey (45) and C.J. Miles (37) also benefitted from West’s passing on kick outs and cuts. He had the same number of assists he had in 2013-14 despite playing 14 less games. He’s not going to physically dominate opponents as he gets older, but the savvy veteran has more than a few tricks up his sleeve.

West struggled shooting this year overall, but a lot of that can be blamed on the absences of George Hill or Paul George. As you’ll see in the “How He Scores” section below, he gets his points in the pick-and-roll, on spot ups , and via post ups. West could once get his own shot after catching at the free throw line, but we saw less of that this season. Nearly three-fourths of his mades shots (74.3%) were assisted this season compared to two-thirds (66.8%) last year and only half (53.8%) in his first year in Indiana.

But although he isn’t imposing his bully-ball will on defenders as much as he did when he was younger, he can be very effective when he gets the ball. He shot just as well from midrange (46.6%) this season as he the past two years (46.9% and 47.0%). He simply isn’t making — or taking — as many shots closer to the rim anymore. Some of this could be to the early-season ankle sprain and general futility of the season (who wants to get elbowed all game when you’re no longer competing for a title?) and if that is the case, then we could see some resurgence next year — particularly in high-leverage games when he goes deep into the well for a quarter or two at a time. But more likely, this is just the new normal for a guy who will turn 35 this summer.

How He Scores

David West
David West /
The above spiderweb chart shows, via NBA.com, what types of possessions lead to his points in 2014-15. (created by Tim Donahue, follow

Here is that chart we were talking about. David West is reliant on his teammates getting the ball to him, but once he does he’s still an excellent shooter from 10 feet or more. He is struggling to score in the paint, however, as we can see with his low point output out of the post up. For sure, His numbers are down, but if the Pacers really do go smaller next season, having him as a mid-range specialist to work with George Hill and Paul George sounds like a good role for him.

David West
David West /

His 2014-15 shot chart, via Austin Clemens

Plenty of red, orange, and tan to be found on his shot chart because even a declining David West is better than most of the league. And he remains elite from the midrange overall.

One of the good things about West is that his game isn’t reliant on athleticism, so it isn’t hard to see him continuing to score even as he’s a littler slower as he gets holder. As long as his arms don’t fall off, he’s going to be able to give Indiana some offense.

David West’s Future in Indiana

Larry Bird said David West had indicated he wanted to stay when he talked to him at the end of the season — with West mentioning “next year” like it was a foregone conclusion — and the money makes sense too for both sides. West’s name will come up in trades because he still has value to both Indiana and almost any other team in the league.

It seems more likely that he’ll play one more full season in Indiana than not. But it won’t be surprising to see his name come up in transactions either if the Pacers really do want to get smaller and they end up making a big move to get rid of Roy Hibbert.

Our Top David West Stories of the Season

Next: Post-Season Grades: A Report Card for Each Pacers Player

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