Indiana Pacers: Why David West Is an Elite Power Forward in the NBA

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Indiana Pacers: Why David West Is an Elite Power Forward in the NBA
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In a league stockpiled with elite, talented power forwards and small forwards who excel at power forward, David West has always been lost in the conversation when it comes to the best power forwards in the business.

The two-time All-Star had the benefits of playing with one of the best point guards in the NBA in Chris Paul earlier in his career—but make no mistake, he has proved that he can excel and lead a team without a premier point guard.

As the second-best player on the Indiana Pacers currently and the unofficial veteran leader of a tight-knit group of young players, West is reminding the world why he is a top-10 power forward in this league with his play and demeanor.

 

Dominant Post Presence

David West isn't the most distinguishable name that comes to mind when one thinks of dominant low-post players, but that's probably due to the fact that he's played on small-market teams throughout his career. 

West has a tough, polished post-game that's comparable to the likes of Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Zach Randolph. West possesses a large arsenal of low-post moves after posting up or off the dribble after facing up his man, including quick turn around layups, baby hooks and up and unders all whilst having the ability to finish with either hand.

After signing with the Pacers 13 months ago, he was the missing piece who turned the team from a fringe playoff contender to one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers lacked a dominant force in the post after their brief stint in the 2011 playoffs, and West became the answer to their problems.

Smooth-Shooting Touch

Power forwards who can shoot are much more valuable nowadays compared to traditional, one-dimensional post-up scorers. "Stretch-4s"—as everyone calls them—are all the new hype, and West can adjust himself into a stretch-4 role quite nicely due to his admirable shooting touch.

According to Hoop Data, West is shooting 47.3 percent from 10 to 15 feet this season and 44 percent from 16 to 23 feet in the past seven seasons.

For comparison, LaMarcus Aldridge, who's considered one of the best shooters at his position, is shooting 45.4 percent from 10 to 15 feet and only 38 percent from 16 to 23 feet this season.

Although the Pacers will have enough shooters who can spread the floor once Danny Granger returns from his injury, West's ability to stretch the floor and shoot is always an added bonus for a big man as versatile as himself.

 

Solid Defender

West never had the tools to be a game-changing, dominant defensive presence, but he is certainly not a liability on this end of the court.

Harry How/Getty Images

He obviously isn't the most athletic or fleet-footed athlete on the court, especially at the age of 32. But what he can do is provide solid post defense on the interior and contest opposing shot attempts around the rim. 

At 6'9", 240 pounds with a wingspan of 7'4", West is capable of holding his own and using his length to irritate bigger, stronger power forwards and centers. 

West also registers a defensive rating of 98 (per Basketball-Reference.com),meaning opponents score just 98 points per 100 possessions when he's on the floor, which is slightly worse than the Pacers' team defensive efficiency rating of 95.4. He's not a great a defender as his teammates Roy Hibbert and Paul George, but he definitely doesn't hurt the team either.

 

Good Passer

One of the more underrated aspects of West's game is his ability to see the floor and find the open man.

A good passer doesn't necessarily mean the player has to make flashy bounce passes or fancy behind-the-back passes through the opponent's legs.

Instead, West is adept at finding open shooters on the perimeter or cutters to the basket while he's working in the post, which contributes to his average of 2.9 assists per contest. However, he's still capable of making a spectacular pass once in a while.

West demonstrating he's one of the best all-around big man.

Among all power forwards in the league, West's assist average only trails Josh Smith, David Lee and Blake Griffin, which is definitely a great group of players to be considered with.

At this point in his career, West probably doesn't command a double team in the post like he did back in his days with the New Orleans Hornets, but when he does he will make the right pass at the right time.

 

Great Leadership

If there was a definition of a selfless, veteran leader in the NBA, then David West's picture should be right next to it. He is the perfect example of a leader (per Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated), and multiple times (per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports), the Pacers have mentioned the impact that West's leadership had on young players.

As the oldest and most playoff-tested member of this team, his poise and leadership is essential if the Pacers want to make it deep into the playoffs.

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