Preseason Expectations: “I thought Outlaw was a solid pick-up for the Nets, though many fans out there still seem hung up on the contract he received ($35 million over 5 years). I think at the end of the day, the length is more of a liability than the actual amount he got (Bobby Simmons got about 1/3 of that just last year only to rot on the bench). However, he’s another import that should help the Nets in an area where they so horribly failed last year – shooting prowess that in turn provides more spacing around the interior for Brook Lopez, Devin Harris and Terrence Williams. Whether he’s doing that as a starter or eventually off the bench, remains to be seen.” I’ll add that I thought Outlaw would be the guy to provide consistent wing scoring for the Nets. I thought Anthony Morrow was going to be strictly a stand-still shooter, and this team would rely on Travis Outlaw for 12-15 points per game.
The Good: Despite playing well below expectations this season, Outlaw has had a few impressive games, mostly early in the season. He got off to a nice start for the Nets in November, averaging 11.5 points and shooting 43.5 percent from the field. Outlaw also had arguably his three best games in November, scoring 20-plus points against the Cavs, Magic and Clippers. The best part about Outlaw during those games was his efficiency. He did not shoot less than 50 percent in any of those three games, and was over 64.0 percent in two of the three. On Friday December 3rd, Outlaw scored 21 points in a 91-84 loss to the Bobcats and then went nearly two months before eclipsing the 20-point mark again. The best game he’s had in months was the now-famous “Melo comes to Jersey” game at the end of January, when the swingman had 21 points on 8 of 14 shooting.
The Bad: Where should I begin? In all seriousness though, the fact that Travis Outlaw is shooting less than 38.0 percent from the field is downright embarrassing. Everyone is going to point to the contract and talk about how disappointing Outlaw has been this season. But put aside the $7 million a year for 5 years, and he’s still having a terrible season. This is the first time that he has been placed into a consistent starting role in his career, and he’s clearly not doing well with it. He’s averaging just 9.5 points per game this season, and from November through February, his monthly average has consistently decreased. For a player that was expected to be one of the Nets better shooters, just 31.2 percent from three-point range is almost hard to believe.
The Extra: Inconsistency has been Outlaw’s bugaboo this season. Early on he was solid and showed the ability to fill up the box score, and most importantly gave the Nets an outside threat. But he has trailed off since then and has really struggled to shoot the ball. Before the season I wrote about how Travis Outlaw could be a player the Nets could look to in the final seconds with the game on the line. Well in order to make a big shot, you have to be on the court first. More times than not over the past few months, the Nets have gone to a smaller lineup, essentially playing three guards, and Outlaw has been stuck on the bench in crunch time.
Final Grade: There is no denying how poorly Travis Outlaw has played this season. It’s one thing to have a starting small forward in the NBA not even average 10 points a game, but to be shooting 37.6 percent is just pathetic. He has not even played close to the contract the Nets gave him and he will need to find his “November” game in order to start getting back into the good graces of Nets fans. Up until now, the Travis Outlaw experiment has been a total failure. Grade: F+.