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Tough Spot For D-West

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It appears the market is not being particularly kind to one former Celtic this summer.

Point guard Delonte West is a restricted free agent in Cleveland, and while there have been rumors of interest from several teams around the league, he has received no formal offers.  Since most teams can't offer anything beyond the mid-level exception, the consensus seems to be that an offer to West will certainly be matched by the Cavs.  But as the News-Herald's Bob Finnan reports, the Cavs and West are nowhere close to reaching an agreement on an extension.  Word from Finnan is that at the very least, West will be looking for a deal that tops back-up Daniel Gibson's five-year, $21 million extension.  

When all is said and done, the Cavs will likely have leveled at least one long-term offer to West, who also has the option of taking the team's $2.76 million qualifying offer and heading for unrestricted free agency a year from now.  Therein lies the catch to making the decision.  If Delonte West feels like he is being low-balled by the Cavs, it would make sense for the dude to have confidence in his abilities that if he takes the qualifying offer he'll play well enough to earn himself a major payday a season from now.  But from a fiscal and logical standpoint, if there is anything close to to a semi-reasonable long-term offer on the table, it's hard to imagine it being sensible for West to walk away from it.Read More..All of Steve's daily posts can be found in the CelticsBlog: NBA blog.  Check him out!


West's value right now has easily got to be at a high for his four-year career to date.  For the first time in his career, West played a significant role on a playoff team (his only other appearance was as a rookie with the Celts in 2005), and he  got better down the stretch.  After being traded from Seattle to Cleveland at the deadline, West started each of the 26 regular season games he played in with the Cavs, averagng 10.3 points and 4.5 assists per game on 44 percent shooting from the field and 36.7 percent shooting from beyond the arc.  Come playoff time, he loomed larger, still averaging just a shade under 11 points per game but doing it with an absurd 42.9 percent shooting from deep.  That included a number of big shots, topped off by West's left corner buzzer-beater in Washington to win Game 4 of the first-round series against the Wizards.

For a third of a season, West added stability at the point for the Cavs, knocking down timely shots, moving the ball well, deferring the ball-handling duties to LeBron when appropriate, generally playing smart basketball and being a good teammate.  The Cavs have expressed a desire to keep him, and remaining alongside James would no doubt be a good opportunity for West.

But while West's value is relatively high this summer and assuredly aided somewhat by a weak free agent class, it's hard to project what it would be a year from now if West takes the qualifying offer.  It's worth remembering that in four seasons in the league, West has only once been able to hold down a starting point guard's job over the breadth of a full season, which came with a 33-win Celtics team in 2005-06.  When he has played, he has been decent-to-solid but nothing that would be confused with spectacular.  West is a decent passer and has good quickness getting in the lane, but his vision, slashing and quickness aren't great or upper-echelon.  He is a good teammate who wins fan love with his everpresent willingness to hustle and scrap all over the court, and he has become a solid rebounder at the point, averaging better than three per game for his career.

But even this far into his pro career, observers remain unconvinced that West is a true point guard, and there is uncerainty that he will ever become that good as far as really catalyzing an offense is concerned.  Meanwhile, his MO was supposed to be his outside shooting for a time, but despite his awkward-looking lefty stroke havng garnered a good reputation, West's shooting numbers don't blow anyone's doors off.  He is a 37 percent shooter from the outside for his career (again, good but not great), and he has never shot better than 38.5 percent from there over the course of a season.

It doesn't help matters that West hasn't been a bastion of good health either.  He has played as many as 70 games in a season only once, which occurred in 2005-06 when he started all 71 contests in which he appeared.  He has missed significant time in each season, and there has been no evidence thus far to indicate that his days of being injury-prone are definitively over.

This is a man who has yet to make more than $2 million in a season.  He has shown a tendency to get injured and has yet to really establish himself as anything beyond serviceable at the point in this league, save for some clutch play in the 2008 postseason.  The Cavs have just locked up Gibson for five years, and if West gets hurt or falters for any reason, Gibson will be waiting for a shot to take the job.

All that in mind, there are clearly no guarantees as to where West's value will be a year from now.  There is nothing to say that he will be able to get the lucrative offer he is looking for -- or even a long-term offer at all, depending on how the 2008-09 season progresses for him.  If the Cavs offer a long-term deal this summer, even if it isn't quite the money West is looking for, it will assuredly represent a big-time salary raise and provide the guard some career security.  Further, at just 25 years old tomorrow, West has the time to afford signing a long-term deal for lower than he'd like now while knowing that he will still be in the prime of his career and in a good position to sign another deal (if he has earned it) by the time the next contract is finished.

It is unquestionably difficult for a player to sign for less money than he believes himself to be worth, especially with the prospect of unrestricted free agency looming the following summer.  But in Delonte West's case, barring a sign-and-trade, he might well be best served to take anything close to a palatable long-term offer the Cavs throw at him. 

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