With New Orleans leading scorer Chris Paul missing a total of 32 games due to injury this season, the demand from fans and media for No. 2 offensive weapon David West to take more shots and boost his offensive production has been a constant.
If only it were that simple.
With Paul not on the floor to share some of opposing teams defensive focus, the two-time All-Star West has seen the number of double- and triple-teams he faces multiply. That has often forced him to become more of a distributor, as opposed to trying to fight through two or three defenders in the paint.
When Paul was out in November, it negatively impacted Wests effectiveness, but as the season has progressed, the 6-foot-9 power forward has become a more efficient scorer and passer. Statistically, March has been Wests best month, with averages of 23.9 points and 4.0 assists. His relatively quiet 14-point game Thursday in Denver ended a seven-game stretch in which he had scored at least 20 points. Prior to that, his lengthiest such streak in 2009-10 had been three games.
Hes done a very good job carrying the load of our opponents defensive schemes, Jeff Bower said. I think weve seen him be a willing ball mover and effective passer. Our other players have gotten better with our floor spacing and ball movement as well, to take advantage of that. I think David has blended his post-up game with his face-the-basket game, as well as drawing fouls, to put up some impressive production during this stretch.
Wests current assist average of 2.7 is a career-best. He has tied his career-high with seven assists in a game three times, all within the past four weeks. Although his scoring average at seasons end will likely be below what he produced in his back-to-back All-Star campaigns, his recent play has noticeably curtailed the amount of criticism he was receiving earlier in 2009-10.
I think the most important thing is that if you want to (criticize him) and look at him that way, you have to compare him to the rest of the players at his position in the league, Bower said. If you do that, hes one of the best. Hes a two-time All-Star, based on his production and performance as voted on by league coaches. He is a target defensively every night by opposing teams. These are all things that increase the degree of difficulty (for West to be effective). Hes done it all with a strong focus on the teams performance. Hes really been an effective and important player for us.