The future of the New Orleans Hornets has long been centered on Chris Paul(notes), but much of this season – and beyond – hinges on the contract extension talks the franchise's front office has entered into with forward David West(notes).
New Orleans general manager Dell Demps has discussed the framework of a multiyear deal with West’s agents at Octagon, but the Hornets' hopes of getting him signed prior to the Feb. 24 trade deadline is “not likely at all,” one source close to the talks told Yahoo! Sports.
West plans to opt out of the $7.5 million owed him in the final season of a five-year, $45 million contract and expects to command north of $10 million a season on the market, sources said.
“It’s hard to see an extension happening here,” one source said.
Demps said he and West have an agreement that they won’t speak publicly about any discussions, but the GM told Yahoo! Sports: “We’re happy with David and we want him here for a long time.”
For Demps, the question will be, should the Hornets consider trading West at the deadline out of fear of getting nothing back for one of the franchise’s cornerstone players? With the way the Hornets are playing – winners of eight straight, and now tied with Dallas for the fourth seed in the Western Conference – it’s a difficult proposition to break up this core prior to the playoffs. Nevertheless, West’s expiring contract could fetch the Hornets comparable talent with longer-term money owed to a player.
Demps would have a chance to make a sign-and-trade deal for West after the season, too. West has averaged 18.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and shot 51 percent for the Hornets this season. He’s played his entire eight-year career with the Hornets, but the chance to play for a championship contender appeals to him. The uncertainty surrounding the NBA taking over ownership of the Hornets, as well as the franchise’s potential relocation, leave a lot of unanswered questions for a player being asked to commit long-term to the franchise.
“Under the current labor deal, I think he’ll get that $10 million a year,” said one rival GM who would have interest in signing West. “But who knows under the next deal?”
West, 31, had a strong relationship with past GM Jeff Bower, who drafted him, and has grown fond of Demps and coach Monty Williams. Nevertheless, he’ll likely resist re-signing with the Hornets now to go into what will likely be a post-lockout free-agent market.