Player Review 2012: David West

by Jeff Tzucker

Conrad Brunner Caught in the Web banner headline

Player Analysis: David West

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive ||

June 26, 2012

When Robbie Hummel looks at David West, he seems himself.

Not as a bruising 6-9, 240-pound power forward, mind you, but as a guy fully aware just how long it takes to come all the way back from a major knee injury.

Hummel and West each had surgery—performed by the same doctor (David Altchek)—to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Hummel in his right knee, West in his left. After lengthy rehab, both returned to the court for 2011-12 but only began to feel something close to normal late in their respective seasons.

"I was obviously rooting for him -- I root for anybody that's hurt their knee," said Hummel, the former Purdue forward. "I think it's great to see somebody like that come back and play at a high level. You could tell he was really good at the end of the season. He was playing at the start of the year but he wasn't himself."

While Hummel hopes his improvement leads to a higher selection in the NBA Draft on Thursday, the Pacers believe West can help them reach an even higher level next season.

One of the biggest reasons for optimism at Bankers Life Fieldhouse is the progress the team made in 2011-12, while West was still rebuilding the strength in his knee and his conditioning. When the Pacers signed him as a free agent on Dec. 13, he had yet to begin full-contact basketball drills and thus was very much a work in progress early in the season.

A player who consistently averaged around 19 points and eight rebounds in the previous six seasons, earning two All-Star selections, was hovering around 12 and six until a late-season surge that carried through the playoffs.

In the final six regular season games and the 11 of the postseason, West averaged 17.0 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists. In other words, he was back.

And the Pacers can't wait to see what he can do for an encore with a full summer to build his body, rather than rebuild.

"I'm eager to see what David can do with a strong foundation of conditioning and not having to worry about his knee for half the season," Coach Frank Vogel said. "Not that it was a big concern, but any time you're fresh off of an injury, there's always a little bit of pull-back from what you can accomplish.

"We saw that toward the end of the season, so I think he's just got to work on coming back in great shape this year, always continue to get better and more consistent with what he does -- his mid-range shooting, his low-post game, his up-and-unders -- just keep those fine-tuned and continue to build his mobility defensively and his ability to protect the basket and just be one of our anchors inside."

The pairing of West and Roy Hibbert in the frontcourt was not only the Pacers' biggest advantage in the playoffs, it became the team's identity.

Without Dwight Howard, Orlando was overwhelmed in the first round.

When Chris Bosh went down in Game 1 of the second-round series with Miami, the Pacers were poised to pull off a stunning upset until LeBron James and Dwyane Wade donned their capes.

West is a rare combination of strength and skill, an efficient low-post scorer who also can stick the mid-range jumper. He is a solid rebounder, physical defender and willing passer. He also possesses the perfect leadership voice—quiet but strong. When he makes a statement—as often by deed as word—the team listens.

The Pacers can't wait to see what he has to say next year.

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