The Trail Blazers’ 50-year anniversary season is temporarily on pause as the NBA goes on hiatus to slow the spread of COVID-19. During that break, Blazer’s Edge is counting down the top 100 Blazers: players, executives, and other influencers who made the franchise what it is today.
No. 69 | Travis Outlaw
Games Played with Blazers: 377 Regular Season, 6 Postseason
*PTS: 9.6 | REB: 3.4 | FG%: 44.3 | 3PT%: 36.1
*Statistics are pulled from a player’s time in Portland
Joined Club: June 2003, 23rd pick in the 2003 NBA Draft
Departed Club: February 2010, traded with Steve Blake to the Los Angeles Clippers for Marcus Camby
Place in History: You don’t watch a player suit up nearly 400 games in your uniform without getting a pretty good idea who that player is. Unless that player is Travis Outlaw.
Outlaw was drafted in the middle of the 2003 NBA Draft, straight out of high school in Starkville Mississippi. For those keeping track, that was the draft featuring fellow high-schooler LeBron James as the #1 selection. Picking that low, neither the Blazers nor their fans had any delusions they were getting an all-world player. Portland spent the pick on Outlaw—presuming he’d be a lottery selection in another year or two. Why not grow him in-house for those two seasons, get him acclimated to the NBA, then let him blossom into the next high-school phenom after that?
As it turns out, it doesn’t quite work that way.
Outlaw was everything advertised physically. His 6’9, lanky frame suited him for either forward position. He could run like a deer and jump out of the gym. He had a face-up game and could dribble, a necessary skill set for the new-millennium NBA. The raw, supernova potential was obvious.
Somehow, it never quite came together. Outlaw barely saw the floor his first season. He earned a respectable 13.4 minutes per game in his sophomore campaign, shooting 49.8% from the field...a huge number. But the blossoming promised afterwards looked more like the basketball gods stepping on a tube of toothpaste than blessing Portland with the next superstar of the generation. Outlaw performed in fits and starts, hitting shots that nobody else would even dare, then blowing shots so open that nobody could believe he missed them. An amazing dunk would be followed by a blown assignment on defense, giving the points right back. He never did that bad. He never did that well either, at least for a sustained period.
But oh, when Outlaw was on... It. was. magic.
That magic had few places to land in Outlaw’s early years. He straddled the Jail Blazers/Maurice Cheeks and the Brandon Roy/Nate McMillan eras. Even had he developed early, which he didn’t, that transition would have been jarring. For a player struggling to find his way in the first place, the switch between systems would have been almost like starting over entirely.
Outlaw’s big renaissance came in 2007, when he showed he could hit three-pointers and coaches began to acknowledge the value of same. All of a sudden, Outlaw became a weapon. He scored 20+ in 16 games in 2007-08, then did it 11 more times in 2008-09, including a 33-point performance against the Chicago Bulls in January of ‘09. In between he fizzled in Portland’s playoffs series against the Houston Rockets. He broke his foot in November of 2009 and was traded to the Clippers not long after.
Outlaw spent his career on the brink. Every time he touched the ball, or even cut to the hoop, something spectacular was in the offing. Flip a coin whether it would sizzle or fizzle. Every time he put together a couple of good games, you wondered whether this was the big break-out. It never came. Few players could match his raw potential and athleticism: Jermaine O’Neal, Rasheed Wallace, maybe a couple others. High expectations and halting results curdled that potential into an impactful, but ultimately head-scratching career.
For getting us to that brink multiple times, for being able to fit several places in the lineup, for enduring seven seasons with a team that transformed completely at least twice during that tenure, and for STILL making us ask whether maybe he was “The One”, Travis Outlaw earns the 69th spot on our Top 100 list.
If you think one highlight is going to do it for Outlaw, you did not see the man play.
Discuss your thoughts and memories of Travis Outlaw below, and check back every day as we continue the countdown to No. 1.