I am an Outlaw doubter. I think he has a horrible basketball IQ that leads him to take bad shots at bad times and not make the most of his size and talent. On top of that, his effort is questionable at best, and certainly not consistent. This really shows up on rebounding and defense. Did I mention his subpar passing? All these things have led me to the conclusion that I would include Travis in almost any trade because I think he is not a player that is conducive to winning a championship, but might bring back someone who is.
That said, this kid is very quietly having a spectacular stretch of basketball for this team. Perhaps, the best of his career. My opinion of Travis is changing. Let me tell you why.
Travis has always been a guy that titilated with his talent by making spectacular plays or having spectacular games. I'm a relatively new BE contributor, but I've seen the. "I'm sorry I ever doubted you, Travis." post on here at least a dozen times after one of his great performances. Those are generally followed up with, "What the #@$@# was that, Travis?" Sometimes, within the same game. What has got my attention lately is I'm not really seeing a ton of either. Travis has dropped 20+ in three of the last five games after having three such games in the first three *months* of the season. Oh, and he has six 20+ pt games in his last 18.
There is no official stat, but my personal Travis "cringe" moments are down to no more than one per game.
Very clever, I know. This can't be overemphasized though. We're trying to build a foundation that can support championship dreams. We cannot afford cracks. Championship teams are predictable. That doesn't mean that every player plays wonderfully every night. It means that you know that if a player faces the same situation from one game to the next, you are likely to get the same result. Coaches can build gameplans around that. They can alter gameplans because of it. This is how identifies are built. Schizophrenia doesn't mesh well with building a unified identity, and that's what we've seen from Travis until the last 18 games.
He had the first 50%+ shooting month of his career in February (50.4%), and has raised his game in March (52.9%). His shooting a spectacular 47.1% from beyond the arc this month. Even his free throws, which have been a struggle this season, have recovered to 79%. His scoring has gone from 10.5 in November and December, to 13.6 in January to 15 in February, and stands at 16.2 so far for March.
Compare that to last season when we saw 9.3 > 14.5 > 15.3 > 15.7 > 11.6 during the same time period. What is hidden in those monthly scoring averages is some shooting numbers that really took a dive. Travis shot 48.8% in Jan-08, but trailed off to 44% in Feb and a ghastly 39.4% in March. With that kind of shooting, he needed more shots to get his points. In his best scoring month so far this season (March), he is doing it with only 11.7 shots/game. His best scoring month last season (Feb) required a whopping 13.8 shots/game. That's more points with fewer shots for you math champs out there. Producing more with less is what maturity is all about.
The simplest way I can measure effort with Travis is rebounds. Travis is not having as good of year on the boards this year (4.1 RPG) as he did last (4.6), but he is showing signs of improvement. He's averaged 4.5 and 4.8 in Feb and Mar, respectively, which is right in line with last season. That includes two dud rebounding games in his last two, where he pulled down a total of two rebounds. Take out those two games, and he has averaged 5.06 RPG over the last 16 games, including a nice stretch to start March of 6, 6, 6, and 9.
Travis really seemed to be searching for his role early in the year. He was tentative. I don't see that anymore. He comes out on the court and starts making plays....good plays. No stats to back this up, just years of watching and playing.
I can't say I'm sold on Travis yet, but I am certainly enjoying this fine stretch of basketball from him. The exciting part is that if this can be Travis' new performance plateau (meaning he doesn't sink back down), I think there is reason to believe he can achieve an even higher level.