The Pacers have agreed to re-sign free-agent forward David West, according to multiple reports, solidifying the rotation that came within one win of the 2013 NBA Finals.
Free agency officially opened on Monday, July, 1 at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Time. Although teams and players can begin having contact as of July 1, deals cannot be officially consummated until the end of the free agency moratorium on July 10.
West, who turns 33 in August, averaged 17.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists last season, helping the Pacers push the Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals. A two-time All-Star, West was Indiana's second-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, and he is widely recognized as one of the team's locker-room leaders.
The Point Forward's Rob Mahoney recently ranked West as the No. 3 big man in the 2013 free-agent class, behind Lakers center Dwight Howard and Hawks forward Josh Smith. A physical, versatile power forward who can score in a variety of ways, West was the biggest question mark facing the Pacers this summer. With the rest of Indiana's starting lineup -- George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George and Roy Hibbert -- already in place, Indiana was fully motivated to keep its core together and its championship window open.
"This is my group," West said after the Heat eliminated the Pacers. "These are my guys. I can't see myself going anywhere else. We're the second-best team in the Eastern Conference, one of the top four teams in the league, in my estimation. ... This group is a solid group. Gives me as an individual the best chance to accomplish the goals that I have left in terms of my future, and that's competing at this stage of the game every single year from here on out. ... We've got the same goals we had last summer. Our only focus is going to be to beat Miami."
Everything about Indiana's summer so far indicates that the Pacers are serious about delivering on West's stated focus: Larry Bird is back as president, former Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan has been added to coach Frank Vogel's staff and a solid backup point guard in C.J. Watson has agreed to terms. The Pacers are now set, or at least mostly set, for the next two years.
The biggest variable now? Whether they decide to deal Danny Granger, who is entering the final year of a contract that will pay him $14 million next season.
After spending his first eight seasons with the Hornets, West signed a two-year, $20 million deal with the Pacers in December 2011. After a bit of a down year in 2011-12 as he bounced back from a knee injury that ended his 2010-11 season, West had an All-Star-caliber season and helped lead the Pacers to the conference finals for the first time since 2004.
Injury season aside, his production hasn't yet shown major signs of age-related slippage, and he earned a bump in his per-year salary by proving he could rebound from injury. A three-year deal represents a nice compromise for both parties, as it helps limit Indiana's exposure to dead-weight dollars when West fully exits his prime while still doing plenty to take care of him right now. Even though a max extension is likely in George's future, the terms of this deal should help Pacers management keep the George/Hibbert/West/Hill core together for the duration of West's contract. GRADE: A. You have to pay to play in the NBA, and there was to be no skimping on West if the Pacers were serious about maintaining their position as one of the East's best teams. The final terms hardly look like a ransom; indeed, this appears to be one of those deals where everyone comes out a winner. West probably could have received a bigger payday on the open market, but he made it clear winning was his priority at the end of the season and he stuck to it. Now, about those Heat ...