As the Indiana Pacers march forward through their franchise-best start to the regular season, the importance of every player on the roster has become more and more magnified. Every piece team president Larry Bird has brought together has become a vital part of the success, especially forward David West.
The Pacers were able to sign West during the 2011 lockout-delayed offseason, bringing in the forward on a two-year, $20 million deal. West, who at the time was coming off of a serious knee injury the year before, had chosen Indiana over the Boston Celtics, citing that Indiana was the "best opportunity" for him.
During West's first two years in Indiana, the team took major steps forward in its growth and maturity, much to West's credit. The leadership West has brought to the floor—for example in 2012's Game 2 victory over the Miami Heat when West essentially stopped the Pacers from celebrating and ushered them into the locker room—has been absolutely invaluable.
Now, fresh off a new three-year, $36.6 million extension this past offseason and now on the NBA's best team, the question has to be asked: Is David West the most valuable power forward to his team in the NBA?
When comparing West's statistics with some of the top power forwards in the league, as seen below, it's clear he is nowhere near the best in terms of statistical production.
Stats via Pro Basketball Reference
However, no one is trying to argue that West is the best forward in the league—West himself most likely would laugh at the notion. But how valuable is West to this team in comparison to some of the other forwards when it comes to leadership?
Peter Vecsey, longtime sports journalist, had this to say about West's presence in Indiana earlier in the season.
While Paul George is an authentic league MVP candidate, everybody within the Pacers' organization will tell you, David West is Indy's MVP— Peter Vecsey (@PeterVecsey1) December 29, 2013
Statistics cannot measure what West provides when it comes to a floor presence for Indiana.
Pacers beat writer Scott Agness tweeted after Indy's January 10 victory over Washington that head coach Frank Vogel believes West's intangibles are what make him so important to his team.
Vogel singles out David West, who led the Pacers with 20 & 8 in 27mins. “He’s leading our team in sacrifice and team play."— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) January 11, 2014
West has proven time and time again that he can take over a game in a critical situation and hit shots when the rest of the team has gone cold. His mid-range jump shot is second to few in this league. His fadeaway is as sure as death and taxes, an almost automatic bucket for the forward.
Is David West the most underrated power forward in the NBA?
Moving forward, it has become clear that although the Pacers can succeed on West's off nights, the veteran presence that he provides for this team is irreplaceable. Looking back, with the exception of the decision to draft Paul George, it could be argued the initial signing of David West was the most important move the Pacers front office made back in the early stages of construction.
And now, as Indiana looks to improve its NBA-best record and push for home-court advantage in the playoffs, the Pacers are proving the risk and investment West made back in 2011 is well on its way to being worth the reward.
*All stats are current as of January 20 and are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.
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