David West has a player option for another season with the San Antonio Spurs. Last offseason, West famously opted out of a contract with the Indiana Pacers worth $12 million to sign with the Spurs for the veteran minimum.
In the process, he forfeited about $10.5 million, presumably to compete for a championship in San Antonio.
Although the Spurs won a franchise-record 67 wins in the regular season, they were knocked out of the playoffs prematurely by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Although West seemed to enjoy his experience playing with such a model organization, it’d be hard to call his choice to join the Spurs a wise decision in hindsight, at least from his perspective.
He willingly accepted a $10.5 million pay cut to lose in the Western Conference Semifinals. He took a leap of faith to try to win a championship, and the attempt failed.
Money isn’t everything, and perhaps he has enjoyed his time in San Antonio much more than his time in New Orleans or Indiana beforehand. You can’t put a price on happiness, and maybe this is the happiest West has been since being in the league.
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From a business standpoint, West has put himself in a difficult position, though. He’s basically forced himself to have to opt into another season in San Antonio.
He has very little leverage at this point. By signing with the Spurs and accepting a lesser role, he didn’t put up statistics that would warrant a raise from any team that remotely approached what he was making in Indiana.
West could opt out of his San Antonio deal and get more money from another team, but it’d be hard to envision a team heavily investing in a power forward who’s going to be 36 at the start of next season.
He might get somewhere in the range of $4-5 million from another team. That’s a big jump from what he’d make in San Antonio by opting in, but it would essentially be admitting defeat in the middle of his plan.
West joined San Antonio to win a championship, and he’d be giving up on that goal to join another team.
Only a team like the Golden State Warriors, the Cleveland Cavaliers, or the Oklahoma City Thunder would give him a better chance to compete for a championship with how things currently stand around the league. 26 other teams he could join would put him farther away from his goal than where he is right now.
He gave up $10.5 million for championship aspirations, and he’d end his experiment by losing a lot of money in the process.
He had one year left on his Indiana deal when he opted out, and had he stayed in Indiana for this season, he would have gotten more playing time and hence been able to secure a better deal for himself in the 2016 offseason based on better statistics.
The choice he made to opt out of Indiana’s deal was basically putting a huge dent in his earning power for the rest of his career. Winning came first to him. That’s admirable, but the Spurs didn’t win this year.
West has the alternative to opt out of his current deal with the intention of re-signing with San Antonio for more money, but the chances that the Spurs would give him a raise are extremely slim. They need all the extra cap space they can get to make a run at a free agent like Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Mike Conley, or Hassan Whiteside. West is gone if he opts out.
His main choices at this point are either to opt in for his $1.5 million with the Spurs for next season, or leave for a raise of what’s likely to be a few million dollars with another team. Unless he feels as though he can get at least $4 million from the Warriors, Cavaliers, or Thunder, it doesn’t make much sense for him to leave San Antonio after the hefty gamble he’s placed on them.
West is probably going to stay with the Spurs. His opt-in shouldn’t be dreaded, but embraced. He can still contribute to the team.
He’s a solid defender who can score inside and has a fantastic midrange jumper. Even though he’s getting up in age, he’s still a great weapon off the bench.
Knowing what’s on the line next season, look for him to be extra motivated to help the Spurs eventually hoist that championship trophy. He joined the team with that goal in mind, and showed where his priorities were by sacrificing so much money.
Some athletes say it’s not about the money, but West’s actions seem to give him more credibility when he expresses that sentiment. Winning is what matters most to him, and he seems to be in a great place to do just that.