So Devin Harris may be “back” and Brook Lopez has rebounded nicely from his early November malaise with two strong games against the Magic and Clippers. But for the Nets to start winning with any consistency, they still need a third option on offense to emerge, and right now that option is starting to look like Travis Outlaw.
There may not be a more polarizing player amongst the fan base on the Nets right now (unless you count Carmelo Anthongy, but we’re talking players actually on the roster here). Those who defend the Outlaw acquisition this past summer know the arguments already – the Nets are paying $7 million per over 5 years for a guy who’s thrived throughout his career primarily as a streaky shooting 6th man? But by paying Outlaw what they paid him, especially after losing out on the top tier free agents, the Nets front office seemed to be sending a sign that Outlaw was going to be the piece to compliment their young center and their reborn point guard.
In the past week, Outlaw has seemingly risen to the challenge. After a very shaky start, he’s gone for 20+ points in three of his last four games, including 23 on Monday night on 9-14 shooting. For the season, he’s shooting an extraordinary 57 percent from three-point land. Despite the snickering from analysts around the game after the Outlaw signing was announced, he’s currently 7th out of all SFs in true shooting at 63 percent.
While it’s highly unlikely he will maintain these percentages over the course of the season, the bottom line is that as of right now, Outlaw looks like he’s earning his contract. Paying a veteran guy $7 million a year to do what Outlaw is currently, suddenly doesn’t look so outlandish, especially when you look at the salaries for a few other “third offensive options” around the league. On Charlotte, Boris Diaw is making $9 million a year as the third guy behind Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson. In Detroit, Charlie Villanueva is making $7 million to provide the same kind of scoring punch Outlaw is providing. While I’m sure the pendulum is slated to swing the other way on Outlaw again before the month of November is over, he’s demonstrating that he’s someone Avery Johnson has to at least show some level of trust in. Because there is definitely talent there that could be wasted if he was benched as impulsively as some fans were demanding a few weeks ago.