30Q: Can Travis Outlaw Rediscover Himself?

2011-12 Statistics:

39 Games Played, 12.8 MPG, 4.3 PPG, .343 FG%, .267 3P%, 1.6 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.5 STL, 0.5 BLK

Contract Status:

3 years, $9 million remaining

Last summer, the Kings took "advantage" of the Amnesty system by claiming the recently waived Travis Outlaw with a $3 million a year bid. Outlaw was coming off the worst season of his career in New Jersey and was no doubt looking to redeem himself in Sacramento. Unfortunately for both him and the Kings, Outlaw's 2011-12 season was even worse than in New Jersey. His shooting percentages were abysmal and he didn't add much anywhere else. He went on a nice little run at the end of the year, but by then it was too little too late to change most fans opinion of him.

Looking at Outlaw's career to date, these past two years have been a bit of an aberration, a huge decline from the solid contributor he was in Portland. Considering that he's still relatively young (28 at season start), locked up for several more years, and plays the Kings weakest position, there is definitely a chance for Outlaw to shine, if he rediscovers what made him so good in Portland.

For a Small Forward, Outlaw is built perfectly. He's 6'9 with a great wingspan, is very quick running up and down the floor, and can explode near the rim as well. You couldn't ask for much more in physical tools. He uses these tools to his advantage by creating deflections and blocks at an above average rate for a forward, but his overall defense could be much better.

The main difference between Outlaw now and Outlaw in Portland is easily his shooting percentage. Outlaw's shot has fallen off a cliff since the 2009-10 season. From 2007 to 2010, Outlaw shot around 38% from three, which would have put him as the best three point shooter on the Kings last year. But since then, that percentage has fallen down to a mere 28%, well below average. It's not just his three point shot either, as his overall Field Goal percentage has slipped from around 45% in Portland to under 39% the past three seasons (and it has gone from 39% to the terrible 34% last year).

It's probable that the various hand and wrist injuries that Outlaw has suffered through the past few years are the biggest contributing factor for this precipitous decline in accuracy. Should Outlaw be able to find that accuracy again, he could once again find himself as a valued bench contributor, or even as a starter given the Kings' dearth of quality Small Forwards. From everything I have heard, both privately and in public, Outlaw is a very hard worker and a good teammate. He has been in Sacramento working out for much of the summer. We can only hope that all of this work translates into production because for my money, a back-to-form Travis Outlaw is a better fit at SF than James Johnson simply because of shooting ability (if the team starts and Isaiah Thomas and Tyreke Evans backcourt).

If that shooting ability doesn't come back though, I fear it's going to be a loooong three years for Travis Outlaw.

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