After it broke that the Nets’ signed Travis Outlaw to a 5 year 35 million dollar contract (it is now reported to be 5 years at 7 million flat), I sent an e-mail to Ben Golliver from the great Blazers’ blog, BlazersEdge asking him about Outlaw. This was his response:
Travis Outlaw: great personality, ok player. Outlaw was one of the most popular (and polarizing) Trail Blazers during his time in Portland, owing to his Mississippi drawl, shy but hilarious personality and maddening game. A prototypical stretch 4, he lacks a position but poses mismatch problems thanks to his height and ability to elevate.
Outlaw’s best skill is his ability to put the ball in the basket. His offensive game is predicated on relatively simple skills. He’s not a great ballhandler but he can use a dribble or two to get his own shot from almost anywhere on the court. He’s not the most natural pure shooter and he’s prone to off-balance fall-aways and leaners, but he converts at a solid clip. He’s not a traditional three point sniper but he can knock down the standstill corner three and stretch the floor a little bit.
He’s not much of a passer or playmaker and his court vision and understanding of spacing and timing isn’t great. He tends to look for his own shot most of the time the ball in his hands, which is ideal if he’s coming off the bench in a scorer’s role. He plays hard but he’s not always focused and he’s never shown a commitment to or affinity for diligently rebounding the basketball on either end. He’s not a guy who will use his length to get a lot of second chance points. That frustrated a lot of Blazers fans.
His defense improved dramatically over the course of his time in Portland but it’s not anything to write home about. His footwork isn’t great and he gets lost in team schemes sometimes. He suffers from classic tweener syndrome — too skinny to guard true 4s, not quite quick enough to stay with pure 3s. He’s best as a one-on-one perimeter defender where he can use his athleticism and length to force tough shots. He showed some flashes as a help defender too, using his long arms to block shots from behind.
Although the Blazers hardly ever get out in transition, Outlaw’s leaping ability makes him a good finisher on fast breaks. He’s more than capable of some highlight reel above-the-rim action.
Nate McMillan has mentioned a number of times since Outlaw was traded for Marcus Camby that he misses Outlaw’s shooting/scoring ability as a way to balance the floor and keep defenders honest. Outlaw fit that role next to Brandon Roy late in games very well, as he showed the ability to hit some big shots down the stretch and developed a fearlessness under pressure. He’s not really suited to be the main option in those situations as his handle isn’t good enough to run pick and rolls and his decision-making isn’t consistent enough to handle double-teams. He’s much, much better as a safety valve, and he’s able to deliver in that role.Given his limitations as a player, I think the Nets overpaid, but who hasn’t in this market? Somebody was going to overpay for him because he has proven he can score. Although he’s still fairly young, I’m not sure you’ll see a ton of development over the next five years, but he’s a solid player now and should continue to be. He was known as Roy’s best friend on the team and a cut-up in the locker room. Like most Blazers, he’s a high character guy who you don’t need to worry about off the court. He’s definitely somebody fans can get excited about.