Brook Lopez grabs the board, outlet pass to Williams who finds Outlaw in the corner. Open jumper…off the front of the rim.
As anybody who so much as watched a New Jersey Nets game last year knows, Travis Outlaw was horrible. Noticeably horrible. By mid-April fans were sarcastically shouting “MVP” at him while he was at the free throw line.
At this point, almost every fan of the NBA knows Outlaw as the guy that completely did not deserve five years, $35 million from the Nets.
Sure, there are many players that don’t exactly live up to expectations each year, but is it possible that Travis Outlaw was the worst of the worst last season?
First, let us take a look at his per game stat line compared to the last season in which he played all 82 games, 2008-2009 with the Portland Trailblazers
While Outlaw never flashed gaudy numbers to begin with, he clearly struggled on the offensive end last season, shooting at an ugly 38 percent clip, the worst among starting small forwards.
Yet, per game stat lines do not exactly paint the entire picture. Obviously, there were players in the league that averaged well below Outlaw’s stats, but their role on the team and playing time justify such numbers.
That being said, we turn to advanced metrics to help put everything into perspective.
Player Efficiency Rating, as developed by John Hollinger, measures a player’s per minute production and takes into account both positive and negative accomplishments on the floor. The league average is always 15.00.
Last season, Outlaw cracked the top 25 in worst PER with a paltry 8.80. Of the 21 players ahead of him, only Raja Bell came close to logging as many minutes as Outlaw. Half the players were rookies.
The others were defensive specialists, whose contributions are left mostly unaccounted for by PER.
Travis Outlaw was by no means a defensive specialist. He was actually a more of a defensive liability. Despite his tall, lanky frame, Outlaw got beaten off the dribble by just about every one of his assignments and seemed to give up on defense about halfway through the season.
He did not, however, give up on shooting. Outlaw continued to jack up, and miss, uncontested jumpers on the wings all season, even after losing his starting job to Damion James.
It is not as if the Nets unfairly relied on Outlaw offensively, which would shine a light on his inefficiency and shooting woes. His Usage Rate, or percent of the team’s possessions that ended with his shot or turnover, sat at an average 15.7 percent for third or fourth option starters.
Finally, according to John Hollinger, Travis Outlaw made the Nets worse, much worse. Outlaw finished 7th in worst Estimated Wins Added with a round -2.0.
Other players, like Steve Blake whose EWA stands at -2.7, can hide under the success of their team. There is no place to hide for Travis Outlaw, a bad player on a relatively bad team.
Yet, while Outlaw’s poor play was widely recognized, there was never any reaction from Outlaw himself. He seemed content with mailing in games and providing the most uninspiring performances possible. Those “intangibles” cannot be numerated by stats, but certainly add to his resumé for Least Valuable Player.
All things considered, Travis Outlaw makes a very formidable case that he put together the worst season in the NBA in relation to career averages, advanced metrics, expectations, and salary.
Brandon Putre is a Featured Columnist for the New Jersey Nets
Follow him on Twitter @Cortezisreal