Let me preface this by saying that Outlaw was the player of the game today. If you looked at the box-score you'd argue that Lopez is the clear-cut choice, but Outlaw showed up in the last two overtimes and came up with clutch deflections, hustle plays, shots, free throws, tough rebounds and surprisingly tenacious defense. I was extremely impressed by his performance down the stretch today; he has the talent to play at that level it's just a matter of him getting his head in the game and harnessing his ability. Let's not forget that he's a very long 6'9 (pause) with some pretty good athleticism and the potential to be a very good defender.
Having said that (Curb fans), Outlaw's performance this season has been abysmal. That would be a lot more forgivable if the Nets weren't held hostage by his contract. There are some who will claim that his contract really isn't THAT bad; often arguing that it's essentially a Mid-Level Exception (MLE) which shouldn't be the focus of future plans. Point taken, but Outlaw's contract significantly affects the Nets' ability to add key pieces this off-season before they position themselves to go after the big-fish -- Dwight Howard. That contract could be the difference between being able to add a player like David West and having to remain conservative and pursue players of lesser ability.
Obviously it should be noted that Outlaw is still a surprisingly young twenty-five with the potential to improve. He has the tools necessary to be productive in this league he just needs to improve his basketball IQ and develop a consistent jump-shot.
Outlaw's 2010-2011 Numbers - PER: 8.60, eFG%: 43.1, WS/48: 0.017, VA: -51.9
To put that in perspective, the average PER (Player Efficiency Rating) is 15.00 and the average WS/48 is 0.099. Outlaw's performance is almost half that of an average player and that doesn't account for all the mental mistakes he makes and his propensity to take more shots then he should.
So I pose the question (remember this is hypothetical): Travis Outlaw has four years and twenty-eight million remaining on his contract after the completion of this season; if you were in charge, would you buy Outlaw out for sixteen million over four years. You would be saving three million in cap-space per year, but you be paying four million for the next four years to an empty roster spot.
I think it's a tough decision. I had to consider it for a little before I came to an answer, but I probably wouldn't do it because I don't think the extra three million in space would be enough to bring in a marginal player. I'm curious to hear what you guys think. Try to take emotion (more specifically, your hate for Outlaw) out of the equation and assess it with a straight head.