When Carl Landry arrived from Sacramento, the idea was that he would complement David West's game at the 4. Landry's solid work on the offensive glass - especially with Sacramento - stood in stark contrast to West's declining offensive boardwork. Where West routinely turned to the step back, Landry was far more likely to end a string of fakes with a head-down foray to the rim. Their jumpshots notwithstanding, Landry and West were always reasonable foils to one another, and the promise of increased post versatility was, as Caleb wrote in February, what made Landry such an exciting acquisition in the first place.
Of course, Landry proved more replacement than supplement. After David West went down in Salt Lake City, Landry carried David West's offensive burden, and more importantly, he did so by stepping into the David West RoleTM. Landry's isolation play against the likes of Pau Gasol obviously stand out, but he functioned largely within the high pick and role scheme that has defined Chris Paul and David West's time as teammates.
There's no question that Dell Demps' vision for the future hearkens back to his thought process before David West went down. Demps has maintained all along that he'd like Landry and West back with the team next season. Back when the Hornets made their run at the Lakers? This seemed reasonably realistic. Now? The dust has settled, West has opted out, the Hornets have only five players under contract, and multiple teams have begun to register interest in both Landry and West. The future admittedly feels a bit more murky.
The Hornets will need to re-sign both to have any shot at being a Western contender next year. That much is for sure. If we end up keeping just one though, who should it be? That's a tough question.
West has familiarity on his side. We've seen him play for eight years now - an eternity for one player to spend with one team in today's league. Since an injury shortened 2006-2007, West has shown great consistency as a scorer. He's the 17 foot assassin of course; he finished in the top 5 among all players in the league in FG% from the 16 to 23 foot range among those who shot from the range with regularity. But his scoring has evolved in other areas as well. West shot a career high 66.3% at the rim, and his percentages from the 10 to 15 feet was also at a career high level in 2011.
It's tough for West that his contract season was cut short so brutally, but in many ways, he's positioned himself well for free agency anyway. There was very little - if any - offensive regression across the board and even his rebounding numbers (offensive and defensive) held steady after a free fall since 2007. West's skill set is ostensibly one that will age well too; it's based on guile as much as it is athleticism. I've long held that West is one of the underrated passers in the game, and his turnover rates are decent as well given how frequently he puts the ball on the floor.
West's game isn't airtight though, and the biggest indication of this comes through his shots at the rim. After taking 37% of his shots at the rim in 2009-2010, only 24% came there this past season. His tremendous shooting ability allowed him to turn in (arguably) a career season despite that, but it's certainly a troubling sign. At least some of West's ability to step back and shoot is predicated on opponents' respect of his bulldozing inside game. Without it, will he need more shots to be created for him? It's worth considering.
Offensively, Carl Landry is about as efficient as David West. His shots come a little differently, but he's responsible for about as many points per possession as West is (111 for West last year, 112 for Landry). The question isn't whether Landry can score; it's whether he can score possession after possession after possession for a full season. Remember that Landry is yet to have a prominent scoring role in his professional career. His career high usage rate of 22.5% came with Houston where a significantly larger portion of his made baskets were being assisted. By comparison, West registers in at 26% usage for 2011 and hasn't had a usage rate lower than 23% since 2004-2005.
In the case of Landry, it's not just a case of him not getting enough touches and shots to be a team's secondary scorer. Landry works hard for his buckets. There's no 17 foot fallaway for him to fall back on when he's tired, and he doesn't get nearly as many easy baskets as West in the paint either. That's really the primary concern if Landry resigns and West does not. I'd characterize Landry as the more hard working defender, though his meager defensive rebounding contributions more than cancel that differential.
From a simple age and value perspective, it really shouldn't be a question which one New Orleans should take in a one vs. one choice. This is one of those cases though where experience really is a crucial consideration.
Ultimately, if the Hornets are indeed seriously having this conversation internally, 2012 will be a rough season. Carl Landry the supplement will be far more valuable than Carl Landry the complement, and whether he gets the chance to prove it or not will be critical to the direction of the franchise.