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An Unexpected End To Delonte Contract Saga

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After months of uncertainty and developments that seemed to send his situation from bad to worse, Delonte West saw his summer-long struggle of a contract negotiation with the Cleveland Cavaliers finally culminate last week.

The former Celtics guard netted a three-year deal that is expected to pay him $12.7 million to stay in Cleveland.  We've been following D-West's saga in Cleveland throughout the summer, and all things considered, it's hard to imagine this could have turned out any better for him given the string of events that occurred this off-season.

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It started with the Cavs giving a big-time extension to Daniel Gibson, who backed up West last season.  They followed that by making it clear that they weren't interested in giving West a similar or greater contract, which seemed odd since he was the starter and had done an admirable job filling the position since arriving at the trade deadline.  West spent the summer debating whether to take the Cavs' $2.76 million qualifying offer, to try his hand at playing for a more lucrative offer overseas or to wait out the Cavs for an extension. 

But Cleveland wasn't done with point guard acquisitions.  Just to show Delonte how much they loved him, the Cavs went out and acquired Milwaukee's Mo Williams, he who is just one season into massive six-year, $52 million deal.  With Williams set as the starter and Gibson locked up moving forward as well, the possibilities of a long-term extension for West seemed slimmer wich each passing day by mid-August.

Yet here he is with a brand new contract that benefits him in just about every way save for the fact that he will still lose his starting job.  At around $4 million annually, West will still make almost as much money in each of the next three years as he did in his first four seasons in the league combined.  He'll also only be locked in at that price for three years.  That's a long enough time to put him in pretty good financial straits for years to come but a short enough time to give him a shot at the free agent market in the prime of his career.  That could be a great opportunity for him to get out of a logjam featuring Gibson and Williams and onto a team where he might have a shot to be a featured guard with a higher salary.

Meanwhile, if West has to back up somewhere for the present, he might as well do it in Cleveland.  West had the joy of a first-round playoff exit in his rookie season, and in the two and a half years after that, he played for two putrid Celtics teams and an awful Sonics squad.  With LeBron James aboard, the Cavs offer a team likely to be in Eastern Conference contention every year for some time, and West showed some value last season with his willingness to step up to take and make big shots down the stretch.  

In addition to being part of a winning team, West should also get his share of opportunities in the back-court.  He'll likely get chances to work as an off-guard alongside Williams as well as minutes as the reserve point guard and primary ball-handler.  Playing at both guard positions should give West a chance to sharpen his skills in both areas, to develop some versatility and to find his true niche in this league, for which he is still searching.  If he can finally make his shooting accuracy more consistent or prove that he can handle and distribute the rock effectively as a backup point guard, he will make himself that much more attractive to prospective suitors come summer 2011.

Somehow, despite the Cavs' commitments to Daniel Gibson and Mo Williams, Delonte West has a contract in Cleveland - and a contract that will pay him handsomely at that.  Short of helping the wine and gold unseat the green in the East, here's hoping for the best for a lovable former Celtic.