May 30, 2014. The Indiana Pacers have just lost to Lebron James and the Miami Heat in the playoffs for the 3rd consecutive year. A shirtless David West sits at his locker, towel around his neck, his eyes gazing gloomily at the floor. The questions begin to roll in from media members and West breathes in deeply, his eyes still pierced to the ground. All he wants is to be left alone but instead, he has to relive yet another loss to a Lebron-led team.
June 19, 2016. Stephen Curry sits at the podium in the depths of Oracle Arena. His eyes dart around the room and he rubs his face constantly, almost like he’s trying to wipe away what just happened only an hour before. Just a few rooms away, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are pouring champagne all over each other, celebrating Cleveland’s first championship in 52 years. Like David West, Curry clearly wants to be left alone. Blowing a 3-1 lead in The Finals is bad enough. But explaining to the whole world why it happened, mere minutes after you walked off the court? That’s just torture.
I almost fell out of my bed the morning Kevin Durant made his decision. My phone blew up like it was the 4th of July (Wait…it was the 4th of July!) as Wojbombs rained down from the sky. I couldn’t contain my excitement. This meant the Warriors were winning the championship next year! Write it down, set it in stone, this will be too easy! How can you not win it all with Steph and KD on the same team, and Klay Thompson as your third option?
A week went by and my excitement had dwindled to a reasonable level. The Warriors now had Durant but many key players that had helped Golden State get to back-to-back NBA Finals were gone. Andrew Bogut was gone, Harrison Barnes was gone, Marreese Speights was gone – 75% of the team was essentially gone. Even with the addition of Durant, there was no way the Warriors could win the championship without competent backups. David West must have had the same idea
To me, Bob Myers’ greatest move this offseason wasn't convincing Durant to move to the Bay Area, it was snagging Zaza Pachulia and David West at veteran minimums. Without Shaun Livingston, Marreese Speights, and Leandro Barbosa coming off the bench, along with countless others, the Warriors would have been nowhere near the NBA Finals the last two years. Pachulia will most likely start for the Warriors next year, but West will be a key player off the bench.
West brings a lot to the table. What makes him most valuable is his rebounding and the ability to step outside for a jumper, especially in today’s NBA. While he struggles running in transition, West thrives in the low post (the Warriors love to dish it into the post, where the low poster can then kick it out to shooters on the perimeter) and he can also set a killer screen (I don't have the stats but I’d imagine the Warriors were at the top in screens set in 2016).
West also brings something similar to what Andre Iguodala brings to the table: a veteran player with playoff experience who is willing to do whatever it takes to win. We know this to be true because West turned down a $12.6 million option from the Pacers last offseason to join San Antonio to try and win a ring. The internet roasted him for that move, and roasted him even more when he signed with the Warriors in July.
Most importantly, though, West possesses a trait that the Warriors need most of all: a sense of revenge. West knows what it’s like to lose to Lebron James in the playoffs — it happened three years in a row. West knows what it’s like to lose a 7 game series — just ask him what happened in the 2013 playoffs against James’ Heat team. West hasn’t gotten a chance to play Lebron James in the playoffs since that May night back in 2014 — he hopes the rematch will take place next June.
“We fell short to a great team. We’re in the midst of an unbelievable run by the Heat. They’re being led by the best guy on the planet…and we can’t beat him.” - David West, May 30, 2014.
“It stung. It sucked to watch them celebrate. We wish that would have been us…it’ll be a good image for us over the summer and all next season to remember so that we can come back stronger. That’s all you can do.” - Stephen Curry, June 19 2016.
Only five key players from last season remain on the Warriors roster. Their tales of heartbreak will surely reach the new guys coming into the organization and West can add to those stories. He tried and failed to defeat Lebron James three times. He failed last year to win a title with a stacked San Antonio Spurs team. Call him a ring-chaser, call him whatever you want. But David West only cares about one thing: winning…and he knows that he’ll need to go through Lebron James once again to reach that ultimate goal.