Travis Outlaw’s Value Per PER

The Nets have received ample abuse from fans and writers alike for the 5-year, $35 million contract they handed out to Travis Outlaw (Zach Lowe over at SI’s Point Forward blog is the most recent to take a rip at it). Given how poor of a season Outlaw is having this year, I wanted to check if the contract truly was the abomination many are making it out to be. So I more or less invented a “bang for the buck” metric using the player’s annual salary and their current PER (Player Efficiency Rating based on ESPN’s John Hollinger’s statistics). What the numbers end up showing is that yes, the hysterics and criticism for Outlaw are very justified. He’s not exactly THE worst bang for the buck in the NBA, but he’s very, very close.

Just to give you a better idea of what I played with here, I saw that according to ESPN Outlaw is currently ranked 301st out of 326 players in PER. These rankings only consider players who are on pace to play about 500 minutes this season. For the sake of expediency, I only considered these bottom 26 players (301-326), took their individual salaries for the 2010-11 season and divided it by their PER to determine the dollar amount for every point of PER. Here are how some of the top candidates shaked out:

1.  Troy Murphy: $11.9 million/6.87 PER =’s $1.7 million spent for every point of PER

2. Hasheem Thabeet: $4.79 million/4.16 PER =’s $1.15 million spent for every point of PER

3. Travis Outlaw: $7 million/8.58 PER =’s $815k spent for every point of PER

4. Jonny Flynn: $3.2 million/4.53 PER =’s $704k spent for every point of PER

5. Randy Foye: $4.25 million/6.53 PER =’s $651k spent for every point of PER

6. Jason Maxiell: $5 million/8.25 PER =’s $606k spent for every point of PER

7. Chris Duhon: $3.5 million/6.13 PER =’s $571k spent for every point of PER

8. Steve Blake:  $4 million/7.55 PER =’s 530k spent for every point of PER

9. Joel Anthony: $3.3 million/7.71 PER =’s 428k spent for every point of PER

10. Maurice Evans: $2.5 million/7.17 PER =’s 348k spent for every point of PER

One observation here: As bad as Troy Murphy has been this season, I’m actually shocked that he was number one on this list, but I guess that’s what happens when your coach refuses to play you and you make close to $12 million a year. But this is a guy who’s averaged around a 15 PER for his career, which is league average, so the mighty have really fallen.

With that said, let me now make my case as to why the Outlaw contract truly is the most egregious on this list. As I just mentioned, Murphy isn’t even an active player on the Nets anymore. If the Nets held on to him for the rest of the season, he wouldn’t accumulate the necessary minutes to qualify for these rankings by year’s end unless there was some kind of dramatic injury in the front court (knock on wood). So I think, with that in mind, he should be disqualified.

Hasheem Thabeet is an absolute draft bust – I can’t believe the Grizzilies used the number two pick on this guy. However, he’s also playing about 5 minutes a game right now so it’s hard for him to even get out of the hole he’s dug himself in. Outlaw is currently averaging more than 30 minutes per game. He’s the only player on this list playing that much. That means Outlaw’s awful production is having the greatest impact on his team because he’s receiving well more than half of a game’s worth of minutes.

Some more rationale to rank Outlaw ahead of Murphy and Thabeet: Outlaw received that contract as a free agent, which means the Nets decided this summer, “hey, this player is worth this much money in 2010-11 and for the next five years.” Yes, the Nets had to overpay because “nobody wanted to come here” and yes, in the grand scheme of things, Outlaw’s $7 million is not the vice grip on the salary cap that some make it out to be. However, Murphy’s contract was acquired via trade, it wasn’t like his current team decided that was his value. Plus it expires at the end of the year. Thabeet is on a rookie contract – there’s very little wiggle room for teams when it comes to rookie deals. The biggest problem in his case is that the Grizzlies decided Thabeet was worth using the No. 2 pick on when they could have had Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings, Stephan Curry, heck even Terrence Williams (kidding). So yes, with all that in mind, Outlaw truly is among the worst contracts in all of basketball based purely on production.