If you were to take a poll and ask which Indiana Pacer would be the key to them winning a championship, 99 percent would say Paul George with the other one percent going to Roy Hibbert. But if you watched the Pacers closely over the past two seasons then you would know that David West is the key to the Pacers success.
West can make a valid claim to being the most consistent Pacer over the last two seasons. The Pacers took a gamble on West by signing him to a two-year, $20 million contract after he tore his ACL and missed the last of the 2011 season, but West was also taking a gamble. It came out that the Boston Celtics had offered West a three-year, $29 million contract, yet West had enough faith in the Pacers that he decided to forgo the extra year.
That gamble paid off handsomely for both parties. West helped lead the Pacers to within one game of the NBA Finals last season and the Pacers rewarded West with a three-year, $36 million contract for his efforts.
Larry Bird has already confirmed the Pacers are “All in” this season. That was apparent when the Pacers completely retooled their bench in the offseason and officially made George their franchise player by signing him to a five-year, $90 million extension.
If the Pacers are going to win a championship this year, then West will need to continue to provide the veteran leadership that only he can. Over the past two seasons, West has become the heart and soul of this Pacers squad and, arguably, the leader. He will need to continue putting up similar stats to last year — 17.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists — but with the return of Danny Granger, West should expect to see a dip statistically.
And that’s the beauty of how the front office has constructed this team. Whenever the Pacers were in a jam last season, West would kick into veteran mode and start a run. His ability to sink 15-footers and then back down his man the next time down, gives him an edge on the offensive side. On the defensive side, West can always be counted on to battle in the paint, even if he’s guarding a stretch-four.
Basketball-Reference.com projects West to average 17.6 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists, but that won’t be the case if Granger returns to his old self and the bench performs as well as they look on paper. If West has to take a backseat statistically that’s fine, but he has to remain a focal and vocal point on this squad if they expect to finally beat the Miami Heat.
Do you agree West is the key to the Pacers success? If not, let me know who you think the Pacers key player is for them to win a championship this season.