This is not a post about how Outlaw isn't a good enough player, or similar garbage. Very simply, I would like to explain to people here why Portland really has no option other than to trade Outlaw before the draft next year.
To recap our current situation:
This draft Portland picked up Pendergraph, who might turn into a backup PF, Claver, who might be a wasted pick, and might be a future star... we now have the option to wait and see, as well as Cunningham, who like Outlaw can slide between the 3 and 4.
At PG we dumped Sergio and drafted Mills, who will probably play in SL, then play overseas or in the DL.
We'll be losing Frye, Shav, Raef and Ruffin. After dumping sergio and presumably giving roster spots to Pendergraph and Cunningham, we have three roster spaces left, and approximately $7.5 million in cap space.
Why Outlaw must be traded:
Put simply, Pritchard has almost no option but to trade Outlaw at this point. We have invested a lot of time into developing him, and he has turned into a fantastic scorer, with still more potential to round out his game. He's friendly and likeable, and gets along well with everyone on the team, all while doing what he is asked to.
But... but through developing him we have come to three very important realizations:
- Outlaw plays signifigantly better at PF than at SF, where he can exploit his quickness without giving up length.
- At SF we perform signifigantly better if we have a spot up shooter who is athletic and can play defense.
- At PF we desperately need someone who can be physical and grab rebounds while providing weak side defense.
These three things together spell disaster for keeping Outlaw in Portland. Like Sergio, very little of the problem is talent. With Sergio we had problems with team role and commitment to defense, but no one would question his talent... the guy is a stellar passer and fairly good at not turning over the ball.
On the other side of the coin, I don't think anyone should question Outlaw's talent either. Like Sergio, he has flaws that are obvious, including his one dimensional play and his allergy to rebounding. But talent is not his problem. And it isn't our problem.
The problem is something we've discussed ad nauseum: fit.
Every team can use an Outlaw. Players like him a well regarded, especially one's as young as him. But NBA teams are built around stars, and our stars do not have complimentary talents to Outlaw.
Rather, the stars on our team have talents that are much more complimentary to players like Fernandez, Webster and Batum.
If you noticed, all three of those names can play SF, and given the three points we went over before, and the reality that we have the ability to sign a banger at PF, we are left with one simple reality: there is no room for Outlaw.
As a team, we perform best with a different skill set his positions.
Now this in itself does not always spell the end for a player and their team, but there are two other points that make trading him almost non-negotiable:
- Outlaw is on a reasonable, expiring contract.
- Outlaw has a fair amount of trade value.
To the right team, Outlaw is nearly the perfect player. He doesn't complain much, he's fearless, he can hit big shots, and he knows how to score. A team like the Celtics for instance would probably fall all over themsevles if they thought there was a way they could get him. (NOTE: I'm not implying we could get Rondo for Outlaw... be serious...)
The General Manager's job is to improve the team. To win a championship. And this year that wasn't Pritch, it was Mitch.
For KP, improving the team means making space for the kind of players that will improve our performance, and making space means getting back value for players that won't improve our performance. And that is quite simply Outlaw.
Yes, we will probably trade Blake as well, but his situation is much different. We are not trading him because he doesn't fit, we are trading him because he just isn't enough. With Outlaw, the question was never talent... with Blake, that is the question.
Does this mean we should focus on trading Outlaw? No... You don't focus on trading a player when their talent isn't in question. Instead you look for the player you want and figure out a deal that will send away the assets that don't help for those that do.
By no fault of his own, Outlaw is an asset that will not improve the team any more. And KP is not committed to maintaining the status quo.