New Orleans power forward David West is taking a huge, and semi-calculated risk. Entering the final year of his contract, the former All-Star had decided to decline the player option that would have him earning $7.5 million in the final year of his contract. West, in a vacuum, is worth a bit more than that, as the Hornet has worked exceedingly well both with and without Chris Paul over the last few years. But we're not working in a vacuum, here.
For one, we're likely about to head into a situation that sees the NBA owners lock their players out, and refuse to pay their salaries. Following this lockout, it is a near certainty that player contracts will shrink a bit. The salary cap could fall, though New Orleans might still be able to go over the cap to re-sign West, and the length of contracts will probably change. Players a good step above West in terms of production and a few years younger than him in age might be signing new deals for the sort of salary West is reportedly declining to play for next season.
Secondly, there is the matter of what David West did to his left knee last March. He tore the ACL in it, and though modern rehab could have West back to a hundred percent by the time the 2012 calendar turns over (and even on the court for a month or possibly longer before that, lockout-willing), it's still no guarantee that the David West we knew will ever come back. Especially at age 31, which he'll turn in August.
"We'll have to talk to them, obviously, and see where Dell (Demps, Hornets general manager) is. The Hornets have an opportunity. But I'm looking for an opportunity to win, honestly. We'll see how things work out, and what the Hornets do to make our situation better. That's really all it came down to. At this point in my career, I want to win, and I want to win big."
If that's the case, even in the NBA's new order (whenever, and however that shakes out), West will be as coveted as they come if he's willing to take a pay cut of sorts.
If he's really out to add his talents to a winner, one with an even better record than the Hornets team that overachieved slightly on route to 46 wins last year, then he'll have his pick of a litter. Even if teams take a chance on him knowing that he won't be fully effective for the first half season (or possibly longer) of his first year with a new team.
Or, it could all be a negotiating ploy. Especially if he's anticipating a dried-up market for his services during the next offseason, after he works through essentially what would be a rehab season.
Players at his age often value long term security over a big up-front payday, and though West's current (and about to be last) contract was never really commensurate with his consistent, near-All-Star play, the Hornets still have until Wednesday to sign him to a contract extension. Giving up a little money now in order to sign a goodly extension under the current collective bargaining rules would be a smart move for West.
Provided that this is what he's after. And even if he is after that, will he get what he wants? Or even if he's after a chance to jump to a championship contender, will he get what he wants?
Like I said -- huge risk, David. Good luck.