Let’s just say Delonte West can be … what’s the word….erratic from time to time. He’s fought off crazy-ass LeBron’s mom rumors, applied to Home Depot during the lockout and is prone to random Twitter rants that spark mass confusion. But the SJU alum (hell yeah) off the court is a far cry from the one on it. Watching West play, I don’t see the ticking time bomb we all believe him to be. Between the lines I see a left-handed Andre Miller with a better jump shot. He’s quick but not fast, under control but always aggressive. He’s cerebral on offense, steady on defense.
The Mavs lost Caron Butler, Tyson Chandler, DeShawn Stevenson and J.J. Barea in the offseason and replaced them with Vince Carter (injured, not surprisingly), Lamar Odom (mentally somewhere else), Brandon Wright (hardly used) and West (the rock).
His numbers won’t wow you. West is averaging a pedestrian 8.1 ppg, 3.3 apg and 1.8 rpg in only 22 minutes of action. He’s started 15 of 16 games but Jason Terry and Roddy Beaubois eat up a lot of his minutes. His advanced stats do not stand out either.
And maybe that’s the point. Barea was a pest, DeShawn Stevenson was incredibly annoying (he nicknamed himself Mr. Fifty), Butler gave the Mavs toughness (although he was injured for most of the year) and Chandler provided some much needed intimidation inside the painted area. West encompasses all of those things, none of which you will find on a stat sheet. You just have to watch him play. He’s pesky and unafraid to play defense chest to chest, averaging 1.4 steals a game in only 22 minutes. In the NBA, playing hard has become a skill. West possesses that skill set. He’s willing to take on seven footers and finish in the lane. He’s one of the few backcourt players on the Mavs willing to go inside and c’mon, all that off the court crap has to make him a little intimidating, right? Would you mess with someone arrested for carrying three concealed guns, one of which was found in a guitar case strapped to his back? Me neither.
West is making his mark on the defensive end where the Mavs are quietly fourth in defensive efficiency holding opponents to 94 points per 100 possessions. They are second in the NBA in forcing turnovers and 9th in the NBA in true shooting percentage defense, according to Hoopdata.com. West’s play hasn’t gone unnoticed. Head coach Rick Carlisle recently told ESPNDallas.com: “Delonte West flat-out competes all the time.”
For a team coming off a championship season, a long lockout and roster overhaul, complacency was going to be an issue. The question for the Mavs heading into the condensed season was can the new four replace the intangibles of the old four, and can they do it on the fly? The argument can be made that West has single-handedly replaced the departed four’s intangibles, allowing the Mavs to keep their heads above water in the Western Conference.