After whiffing on Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, Joe Johnson, and likely LeBron James as well, the Nets had to do something. So they’ve agreed to a five-year, $35 million deal with Travis Outlaw, which makes sense but doesn’t.
Outlaw is a pretty average player, and he’ll make slightly more than that over the next five years. It’s not great, but really not so bad. He’s a decent complementary scorer, but it’s pretty important that the Nets understand what they’re getting themselves into. Outlaw may have shown a lot of promise as a 20 year-old when he was scoring 14.5 points while picking up 1.4 steals and 1.8 blocks per 36 minutes, but now he’s a 25 year-old scoring at the same rate and picking up about half the steals and blocks that he used to. Travis isn’t going to evolve. He’ll fill in the gaps, create for himself, and put up some shots, but it’s awfully unlikely that he’ll ever be anything more than what he is now.
That’s fine. Really. Free agent signings don’t have to be superstars, and Outlaw could be exactly what the Nets need. I just don’t see why they couldn’t get very similar offensive production from Chris Douglas-Roberts, who is two years younger, works for less than a million next season, and was shipped out to Milwaukee for a 2012 second round pick.
Outlaw is undoubtedly the better player; he’s a superior defender, twice the rebounder, and overall the more versatile offensive threat. Still, Douglas-Roberts was in the Nets’ wheelhouse at a serious bargain, but his .512 true shooting percentage apparently isn’t worth quite as much as Outlaw’s .512 true shooting percentage. Even their usage rates are nearly identical. CDR was probably traded in the name of team cleansing (he was rumored to be quite the problem child), but if New Jersey trusts Avery Johnson’s ability to run this team as he sees fit, should they really question his ability to control a 23 year-old malcontent? If Douglas-Roberts was causing the Nets problems next season, then he was probably the least of them, y’know?
$35 million later, the Nets aren’t all that far from where they started. They did well in the draft, but New Jersey’s big free agent plans have fallen hard, and now have invested decent money in a player similar to the one they gave away.