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New Player Profiles: Delonte West

When the Mavericks signed Delonte West, it was about filling a need. With the departure of JJ Barea, the fact that Roddy Beaubois hasn’t much taken to the point so far, and the fact that Dominique Jones, while performing well at the point in the D-league, hasn’t yet proven he can score on NBA defenses, the Mavs were in a bad way for a backup to Jason Kidd.

In my opinion, they actually did really well.

Delonte West is no JJ Barea, in terms of changing the game's pace. He’s not a slasher, he’s not a creative finisher. What he is, is a competent distributor, an above-average defender and a good three point shooter. He may very well give the Mavs the production JJ did. He will not be antagonizing Andrew Bynum into trying to kill him.

West is 6’3", with experience at both guard positions, and is something of a youngster for this Mavericks team, clocking in at only 28 years of age. His career has been marred by off-court issues, but it is in some ways a relief to know that these are probably largely the result of a manageable psychological condition—bipolar disorder—and do not indicate that West himself is lacking in character. Though any defect, physical or mental, is enough to cost one an NBA job, the supportive atmosphere of the Mavs club house might be just what West needs.

West, unlike most of the Mavericks, has rarely been more than roleplayer and it’s unclear how that might change with the Mavs. It’s more than likely that he’ll see less than his average career minutes (27.8), but then again, the Mavericks are very much committed to getting Kidd some rest and, again, it’s not clear that any of the rest of the Mavs guards qualify as a distributor. On the third hand, with Carter and Odom more than capable of initiating the offense from time to time, it’s possible that the Mavericks will limit West’s minutes by trying more creative sets.

West was limited to 24 games last year, thanks to a wrist injury, but overall he’s been a model of consistency. His career average of .447 fg% won’t wow you, but for a backup PG it gets the job done—JJ’s is .436, .439 last year. His distributing, which hovers around the 3.5-4 range (career average 3.6) is actually an improvement on Barea, which, I suppose, is not all that surprising, since as much as we all loved the little guy, there may never have been another PG, so incapable of looking up while driving. West is a comparable free throw shooter to Barea and a much better defender, although—and this may be a problem for the Mavs—primarily against bigger guards.

He’s been a starter three times in his career, and in each of those seasons shot over 36% from three, including .385 in 2005-2006, and .399 in 2008-2009. In recent seasons as a backup, the role he’ll (obviously) play in Dallas, his 3p% has been down in the .320, .330 range. It’s hard to know which is more realistic to expect this year, but playing with this much talent should give West a lot more open looks than he’s used to.

It’s hard to know what exactly to expect from West this year, in terms of production. My guess is along the lines of what West himself pointed to, in his half-joking description of himself as a "poor man’s Jason Kidd". There’s not going to be a lot of scintillating drives to the basket, but there should be solid defense, solid passing and good three-point shooting. So far he’s also earned himself a lot of good citizen points, saying all the right things and working hard, and it’s not hard to picture him executing the Mavs offense very capably, without trying to do too much. It especially helps the Mavs to have another capable perimeter defender.

Once again, it’s hard not to call this a low-risk, high-reward pickup. West is not likely to log big minutes with the Mavs starters, or to see much time at the end of the game, but with such a deep team, count on West to be in the middle of a lot of the action. As the only other qualified PG currently likely to see the court (sorry, Drew Neitzel), he'd better be.