Sure, Paul George is more versatile, Roy Hibbert is the key to the frontcourt defense and Danny Granger's health will be a huge factor. But the Pacers will only go as far as West will take them.
That being said, West will be a free agent following this season.
So how much is David West worth to the Indiana Pacers?
Low post scoring is the key to postseason success
David West is a throwback to a different NBA. He is a bruising, back-to-the-basket scorer that inflicts damage on his opponents and can get his shot off against just about anyone.
When you look around the league, those types of players are becoming a rarity.
The league is shifting towards a more athletic power forward, not to mention the emergence of the new stretch four.
While this may lead to more exciting basketball and perhaps higher ratings, a true low post scorer still can get the job done.
Additionally, they are at their best in the playoffs. Playoff basketball is a half-court game that is generally dictated by slow, grind-it-out possessions.
In this style of basketball, having someone in a position to score higher percentage points is essential.
Rarely in the last 30 years has a team won without one.
Even teams that didn't have a dominant center or power forward still were able to grind it out down low with good post offense.
The Chicago Bulls of the 1990s did not have a dominant frontcourt player, but Michael Jordan often initiated the offense from the post.
The Detroit Pistons of the late 1980s and early 1990s had James Edwards and Mark Aguirre when they needed a hoop down low.
The Dallas Mavericks of a few years ago were generally considered a jump shot squad, but Dirk Nowitzki was no stranger to low post offense.
And while last year's Miami Heat did not have a traditional center doing their posting up, LeBron James took the next step in his development and turned into the most athletic power forward of all-time.
Looking around the Eastern Conference, few teams boast a player that can score down low when their team needs a bucket.
But those teams are either dealing with season-crippling injuries or are pretenders that are not up to challenging the Heat.
The Pacers match up well with Miami across the board, but their wildcard is West.
The Heat really don't have any answers down low for him. Chris Bosh will try to use his length and athleticism to slow him down, but often he is bullied by guys like West.
What makes West so hard to stop is how efficient he has become not only in the paint, but outside of it.
West is shooting greater than 50 percent from inside the paint, but what is more impressive is that he is knocking down more than 46 percent of his shots from 15-20 feet.
This has allowed him to not only have his way when backing up, but also facing the hoop. This forces his defender to respect his jumper as well. For a low post defender, this is an incredibly frustrating experience. You get a break from having this guy bumping up against you and trying to back you down, only to have him pop a jumper in your face.
By having this type of weapon up front, it frees up slashers like George as well as shooters like George Hill and Lance Stephenson.
Hitting the open market
So re-signing West should be the Pacers' top priority, right?
In a word, yes. However, this is where it gets tricky.
The Pacers next year have essentially half of their salary cap figure tied up in two players, Hibbert and Granger.
They also have to offer qualifying offers to the Hansbrough brothers and Jeff Pendergraph.
To top it off, they will eventually have to give big raises to bargain players like George and Stephenson, although that won't come until after next year.
So how much can the Pacers afford for West?
This year, the big guy earned $10 million and he didn't do anything to decrease his value.
He did, however, turn another year older and will be 33 when next season begins.
A guy like West has a lot of wear-and-tear on his body from years of banging down low. So how many years does he have left?
Since West is such a throwback player, looking back to the past is probably the best way to gauge how many years he has left.
Kevin McHale retired at the age of 35, Karl Malone retired at 39 and Adrian Dantley retired at 34.
Obviously Malone was a physical specimen, McHale had injury issues and Dantley was supremely undersized so there isn't a perfect example.
It is safe to say that West will probably give the Pacers at least two more very productive years and perhaps as many as four.
Therefore, let's look at a three-year deal for West.
If West were younger, he would certainly fetch at least $10 million per season for three years. But his age certainly should be a factor.
Furthermore, this year's free agent crop is weak at the power forward spot and plenty of teams would love to have a bruiser on their roster as well.
For the Pacers, they have got to hope for a hometown discount. They can't afford to get into a bidding war for West.
However, if they decide to deal Granger before the draft, they could free up an additional $14 million in cap space. But given Granger's injury woes this year, the Pacers may struggle to find a taker.
It seems likely that West will be offered between $8-$10 million per season for three years from somebody and the Pacers would struggle to come up with that much seeing as they will already be close to the salary cap when they sort out their other business.
The hope will be that ownership approves going over the salary cap to re-sign West and they receive a discount on top of that.
Because the Pacers' immediate success is so intricately tied up in West's game.
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