David West has decided to opt out of the final year of his contract with the New Orleans Hornets, according to reports. His reasons? He wants a chance to win big, and is looking for the best opportunity to do so. That could come with the Hornets in the end; several reports quote West's agent as saying he could return to New Orleans after gauging the market. While the Hornets are capped out thanks to sizable contracts for Chris Paul, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, under the current salary system the team could keep West because it owns his Bird rights.
But it stands to reason that West is looking for a team better than New Orleans' first-round-and-out level. That could be difficult to find, as most of the true contenders are thoroughly capped out (Magic, Spurs) or set at power forward (Celtics, Heat, Lakers, Mavericks, Bulls). (In the case of the latter, most are also capped out. Much of the league is capped out.) So what teams could West actually end up seeing the cash from?
Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Indiana Pacers and New Jersey Nets will register interest in the 30-year-old power forward. The Pacers are guard- and wing-heavy; of the team's top five players going into next season, only one (Roy Hibbert) is a big man. The team has Tyler Hansbrough and Josh McRoberts at power forward, but West has been a much better performer than either in recent years, and in addition to new point guard George Hill (acquired in a draft day trade with the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard, the No. 15 pick), could vault Indiana from "intriguing eighth seed" to "frightful mid-lister."
The Nets have to deal with Kris Humphries, himself an unrestricted free agent. While West is the better player overall, New Jersey will have to weigh costs (West's salary will be much greater than Hump's) and fit next to big man of the future Brook Lopez. It's also worth noting that a Deron Williams-David West pick-and-pop seems unstoppable as a Chris Paul-David West one, in theory.