FanPost

Checking In On an Old Friend, Volume II

We're actually gonna begin this story in the summer of 2008. After seven productive seasons as a member of the New Jersey Nets, Richard Jefferson was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons. Jefferson only played 55 games the season before as he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right ankle. RJ was able to play all 82 games in 2007-2008, and he played well. He played in all 82 games at 39 minutes a night, which was the eighth highest in the Association. When he returned, he was super aggressive as he averaged six shots a game at the rim and eight free throw attempts per game, both of which were Top Ten in the league. His contributions weren't enough as the Nets finished 34-48. The big occurrence that season was the departure of Jason Kidd, which (self-promotion alert) I discussed a while back. In reflecting on RJ's time in Jersey, Rod Thorn had this to say:

"I want to thank Richard for his contributions to the Nets over the past seven years," Thorn said. "He always conducted himself in a professional manner, and we wish him only the best for the remainder of his career."

Looking to the future with Yi,Thorn said:

"We feel that Yi can be a very special player. He is a 20-year-old 7-footer who shoots the ball extremely well, and he is an excellent addition to our frontcourt."

Did Yi turn out to be an "excellent addition?" Well, no. Yi was terrible in his two years as a Net, as he was a below average shooter, rebounder, passer and defender. Simply put, he sucked.

Yi's terribleness aside, I wanna focus on the small forward position. In addition to SImmons, the Nets also acquired Jarvis Hayes to shore up the 3 position. So how'd these small forwards do? Let's get into it:

2008-2009

Jarvis Hayes

Trenton Hassell

Bobby Simmons

Other Small Forwards

Minutes per game

24.8 20.6 24.4 23

True Shooting %

53.7 48 59.6 54.2

Rebound Rate

8.7 7.9 9.5 9

Assist Rate

8.32 21.98 17.22 14.43

Turnover Rate

7.6 12.9 11.7 11.76

Usage Rate

16.6 9.9 14.3 19.16

PER

10.8 7.2 12 15

Win Shares per 48

.055 .029 .095 .099

Wins Produced per 48

.018 .079 .137 .099

& in 2009-2010:

2009-2010

Jarvis Hayes

Trenton Hassell

Chris Douglas-Roberts

Terrence Williams

Other Small Forwards

Minutes per game

23 21.3 25.8 22.6 22

True Shooting %

52.1 46.5 51.2 45.9 54.4

Rebound Rate

6 7.9 6.6 11.4 9.3

Assist Rate

10.99 16.93 12.58 26.57 14.55

Turnover Rate

7.7 15.9 13.1 14.8 11.31

Usage Rate

16.2 12.3 19.6 21.8 18.38

PER

9.7 6.5 11.5 11.5 15

Win Shares per 48

.038 -0.003 .020 -0.007 .099

Wins Produced per 48

-.020 .030 .048 .016 .099

The position was a black hole for the Nets. They had a "stopper" who didn't really get stops (Hassell), young players who didn't develop as the team had hoped (CDR, T-Will) and crappy veterans (Hayes, Simmons, Hassell). But just saying "they sucked" is overly simplistic. Whatever he may be (or isn't) these days, T-Will was a lottery pick that was considered a possible breakout candidate, Douglas Roberts did have his useful moments and Bobby Simmons was decent in 2008-2009.

However, that wasn't nearly enough to make them useful on the court. As a collective, they were inefficient from the field, struggled with ball control, and didn't contribute much on the glass. Their struggles, along with other holes in the Nets roster and management led to a 34 win season in 2008-2009 & eventually

S091202_netslose_medium

Which brings us to the Summer of 2010. The Nets were in the market for a small forward and everyone knew who they were gunning for. Much like what felt like every basketball club in existence, the Nets made a play for LeBron James. In fact, they appeared to present a better case to bring LeBron to their team than their crosstown foes Knicks. This is important to keep in mind because with Prokhorov & the God MC on board, they were looking to make a splash and invade Knick territory. Literally. Of course, when you're trying to dethrone the King of the Town, you need a transcendent player to go along with your transcendent ownership figures. But, as we all know, the Main Event of that Free Agency period ended with:

But as it turned out, the Nets had a backup plan in case LeBron went elsewhere. They signed Travis Outlaw to a five year, $35 million contract (Technically speaking, they signed Outlaw before LeBron made "The Decision."). I'm almost certain the first reaction you had to that deal was "meh." But Outlaw did represent a clear upgrade at the SF position over Hayes, Hassell, Simmons, CDR & a raw Williams. Dave D'alessandro of NJ.com makes a pretty strong case for the Outlaw signing:

Here’s what they have in the 6-9, 210-pound Outlaw: They get a guy who, when healthy, got the ball in crunch time for a 54-win team – and a guy who produced as one of the best fourth-quarter scorers in the NBA from 2007 to 2009.

During his last two full seasons in Portland, he was indisputably one of the most exciting sixth men in the NBA, averaging 13.3 points in ’07-08 and 12.8 points in ’08-09.

Moreover, he is very good 3-point threat, hitting 38 percent from downtown his last three seasons -- and he has the courage to take that shot with the game on the line.

Outlaw also had some good things to say about what he expects as a Net.

But there was a strong argument to be made against the Outlaw acquisition. For a player as athletic as he was, he didn't really get to the rim as much as you would like. Also, his career season (2008-2009) wasn't that great as he graded out as slightly above average according to the value metrics such as PER and Win Shares. And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, was the cost of signing him. Yes, I know it's not my money and a member of the Russian elite can spend it any way he damn well pleases, but in a capped sport you need to have your executives choose wisely when handing out long-term contracts.

It's a little tough to get a complete picture of how the fanbase reacted to the signing, but if the response in this community serves as a barometer, I'd say opinions were split down the middle.

When he was here

How did Outlaw play as a member of the New Jersey Nets? Let's take a look at the numbers;

2010-2011

Travis Outlaw

Other Small Forwards

Minutes Per game

28.8 21

True Shooting

46.9 54.4

Rebound Rate

8.1 9.1

Turnover Rate

8.1 11.4

Usage Rate

17.3 18.36

Assist Rate

9.6 16.06

Win Shares per 48

.016 .099

Wins Produced per 48

.001 .099

PER

8.8 15

As it turned out, Outlaw wasn't an upgrade at the SF position after all. I think the worst aspect of Outlaw as a Net was the fact that there were cheaper alternatives out there that would have been way more productive. He did have this highlight so he did do something useful.

After hitting on close to 40 percent of his three point attempts the three previous seasons, Outlaw only hit on 30 percent of his threes. He certainly got his chances on offense, as he got eight FGAs a night and two free throw attempts per contest. But, he ended up accumulating a (then) career worst True Shooting percentage of 46.9 (technically, he had a lower mark in his rookie year, but he only played eight games).

Was he at least good on defense? No. The Nets were horrendous on defense, allowing 107 points per 100 possessions. With Outlaw, they allowed close to 109 per 100 possessions. On the whole, the Nets were eight points worse when Outlaw was on the court vs. "only" five without him. It didn't help that he was out of shape. Nets GM Billy King:

"He understood exactly the mistakes he made. I think sometimes when they’re free agents they don’t do anything until they sign their contract. Once you get started, it’s too late."

Why'd he leave

If there was one good thing about the lockout, it was the amnesty clause. It's only available to teams once, and it's best used to bail out dumb owners and GMs from their stupid player choices on players whose contract you wish to get out of due to said player's unproductive play or as a transition move to acquire a better player for your roster. Outlaw fits both requirements and on December 15 of 2011, he was gone. Billy King had this to say about Outlaw's release:

"I told Travis, it's part of the business. It's the ability to have flexibility," King said. "It has nothing to do with you. I've got to keep as much flexibility for the organization as possible."

Now I don't know Billy King, but I call bullpucky on his "It has nothing to do with you" line. Outlaw getting released after one season had everything to do with him. Outlaw's season was going so poorly that he got the sarcastic MVP chants near the end of the year. Earlier, I said that it was tough to get a complete picture of how a fanbase views a move made by heir team. But I feel very, very safe in saying that the majority of Net fans shared the same sentiments as the NetsDaily community.

Looking to put someone at the SF position who wasn't a black hole of suck, the Nets signed Shawne Williams away from the Knicks. Extra E had a great year shooting the ball for New York in 10-11, as he connected on 40 percent of his three pointers. The move certainly made sense, as Extra E hit on 44 percent of his corner three pointers (on 147 attempts), and with the expectation that Deron Williams would frequently attack the basket and Brook Lopez would continue to be productive on offense, Williams seemed like a good fit. Unfortunately for the Nets, Lopez only appeared in five games thanks to a foot injury, Shawne Williams was terrible before foot surgery ended his season, and Deron Williams experienced a mediocre, injury filled season (that sounds familiar).

As for Outlaw, he ended up joining the Sacramento Kings. Then Kings coach Paul Westphal was a fan of the move:

When you look at the years in Portland coming off the bench at either the three or the four spot, he was very productive for them," Westphal continued. "And he was a guy that they would go to in the fourth quarter a lot of times, and he delivered. So that’s what got him the five-years, $35-million contract. We think that if he can be healthy and revert to that form, we’ve got somebody that can really help us at two positions."

How'd Kings fans see the Outlaw acquisition? Tom Ziller of SacTown Royalty seemed pretty meh about it:

There's not a whole lot to lose here, but I'll be stunned if this ends up looking like a smart deal at any point in the future. It's another player with some talent for Westphal to play with.

What did he do that year?

2011-2012

Travis Outlaw

Other Small Forwards

Minutes per game

12.8 22

True Shooting %

46.9 52.7

Usage rate

18.7 17.98

Turnover rate

9.3 12.78

Rebound rate

6.7 9

Assist rate

7.43 15.99

PER

9.6

15

Win Shares per 48

-0.008

.099

Wins Produced per 48

-0.041

.099




Pretty much the same as his season in Jersey. For what it's worth (& in this context, it isn't worth much), the Kings were better with Outlaw on the court than when he was on the bench. With Outlaw in the game, Sacramento was outscored by 4.2 points per 100 possessions. When he was on the bench, the Kings got outscored by 6.2 per 100 possessions. It's the little things that keep you going sometimes.

How's the Future Looking?

Travisoutlaw_3730_medium

(I'm sorry, I had to use this picture. It's just so... perfect.)

There really isn't much to look forward to here. Outlaw has been terrible again this season in his twelve minutes of game action a night, and currently finds himself third on the small forward position (Tyreke Evans has been injured lately, so when he gets back, Outlaw will slide even further down the depth chart). When he has been on the court, the Kings have been an abomination, as they are twelve points worse with Outlaw in the game vs. only five (that's still terrible, but not as terrible) points worse per 100 when he's not around. Outlaw is a career 42 percent shooter from the field, and this year he's shooting 41.5 percent so he's right in line with his career performance. Unsurprisingly, Sacramento is shooting six percent worse from the field when Outlaw is in the game.

As for his team, take a trip through SacTown Royalty and they'll fill you in on all the gory details.

Previous Installment: Derrick Favors

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