The GSoM community is ranking the Golden State Warriors' players, but we're doing it "Survivor" style, eliminating one player per poll, until we've decided who is the most valuable to the Warriors in 2017 and beyond.
We're referring to the players as "assets." As such, voters are reminded to consider age, salary, injuries, production, potential and overall value to the team (as either a player or trade piece) when making their selections. Basically, you're part of the front office, and it's time to cut the next player.
"Value: where price and quality intersect" - A sign I saw at Trader Joe's once.
In an important road win over the Portland Trailblazers, David West played just 10 minutes, yet had the second-highest plus/minus on the team with 26. Despite scoring just four points on three shots, West grabbed four rebounds, dished out three assists and grabbed a steal and block as well, without fouling or turning the ball over. He displayed an interior toughness that gave him the reputation of a stalwart paint defender during his time with Indiana, and he played with the confidence of a former All-Star, finding ways to frustrate Portland's younger bigs.
"Playing within oneself" is one of those trite and meaningless sports cliches, but it certainly applies in this case, as it seemed every action by West on the floor was purposeful, clearly operating within his comfort zone and it showed in his game.
At a 1.5 million or so veteran minimum contract, West doesn't need to do much in his minutes to create value for the Warriors. At this point in his career, both West and his opponents know what he is good at; a bank shot from the elbow, rugged defense in the post, and the ability to finish inside. One part of West's game I wasn't personally acquainted with, but am quickly becoming a fan of, is his court vision.
On a night where Klay Thompson struggled to find his shot, he was set up on a beautifully executed give-and-go with West, who dished the ball back to the cutting shooting guard as soon as he received it and the Warriors got an easy shot at the rim. West can be valuable to the Warriors in other ways as well, serving as a mentor to the many young bigs on the roster right now, specifically Damian Jones and Kevon Looney (though Javale McGee could take a few notes from West on "playing within oneself.")
The easy comparison of West's role on the team now is to Mo Speights' role in seasons past, though there are some obvious wrinkles (and one missing mole) in this equation. Speights was a shooter first, everything else second, and his tendency to need to take shots to get going was one of the reasons it was not feasible to try and retain him after adding Durant. West can contribute in other areas of the game, while still having the ability to knock down that mid-range if it is called for. One thing Speights was able to add to his repertoire was a three-point shot, and although this is not a part of West's game, the two-time All Star is a considerably better finisher inside.
Per basketball-reference.com, in the 2015-16 season, about a quarter of all Speights and West field goal attempts came within zero to two feet of the basket, and West converted on 20% more of those of those shots, shooting 71.3% in that zone compared to Speight's 51.3%. As with everything, this is a trade-off between the two players, but West's current skillset, if applied, is on-paper a better fit for the way the Warriors are constructed now than Speights. One area that Warriors need West to apply his size is in boxing-out and securing the defensive rebound.
Steve Kerr, for better or for worse, deeply believes in the "Strength in Numbers" mentality, or that a deep and engaged bench is key to sustained success. In the grind of an 82-game regular season, with eyes on another deep playoff run into June, players like West will be critical for giving the Warriors positive contributions night-in and night-out. Winning the bench battles, the games within the game, was a huge factor in having a dominant regular season last season, as the starting lineup would rest with a lead that the bench could build on further.
The addition of Kevin Durant has, among all other things, has allowed Kerr greater flexibility in trying out different lineups, specifically splitting the Big 4 into the Stephen Curry-Draymond Green lineups and the Durant-Thompson lineups. In the coming weeks, Kerr will continue to experiment with which particular permutation of players can create these small advantages against certain matchups. Against the Trailblazers, the Warriors' best lineup was Curry-Ian Clark-Andre Iguodala-West-Green, a group that went +21 in just six minutes of playtime.
West was much maligned two seasons ago for turning leaving nearly 11 million dollars on the table as he turned down an extension from the Indiana Pacers and instead joined the San Antonio Spurs on a veteran's minimum. These criticisms were magnified when the Spurs failed to make it out the West, not even making the Western Conference Finals, and they were echoed further when he joined the Warriors, after Durant had committed to coming to the Bay. Where others may look at this behavior and see shameless ring chasing, I see a savvy professional looking to create the best career outlook possible. There is no question West wants to win a ring, and if the Trailblazers game is any indication for the future, he can be an active contributor in creating that reality for himself and for the team. On a related note, check out this great profile on West by GSOM's own Tamryn Spurill!