#ORLrank 10: Bo Outlaw | Magic Basketball

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Nov 02

#ORLrank 10: Bo Outlaw

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

 

G MP PER VORP WARP WS/82
2000-2001 80 2534 15.7 3.96 7.5 8.1
Bo Outlaw’s best season with the Magic

 
When a player doesn’t have any singular elite skill on the basketball court, analysts tend to refer to them as “energy and hustle guys.” It can be taken as a backhanded compliment, a way to talk about a player without being forced to actually praise their play. But for some guys, the term not only fits, but it perfectly characterizes their games in the best possible sense. Bo Outlaw was one of those players.

At an unimposing 6-foot-8 and 210 pounds, Bo lacked a true position in an era where roles were much more defined than they are today. His athleticism was off the charts, but his technical abilities and basketball instincts were about as undeveloped as could be. But he made it work. He made it work so well that he was able to turn a 10-day contract with the Clippers into a 15-season NBA career, 10 seasons in which he spent playing legitimate rotation minutes.

He did this by finding meaningful ways to contribute that compensated for his almost total lack of a scoring arsenal. He was good for some dunks, but a scorer he was not. However, he was an outstanding passer for his size and position. In each of his first four (and best four) seasons with the Magic, from 1998 to 2001, he averaged at least 2.4 assists per 36 minutes, a number that was as high as 3.8 per 36 in the 1999-2000 “Heart and Hustle” season.

But while Outlaw’s passing was impressive for a power forward, his true calling card as an NBA player was his defensive versatility. He was capable of guarding multiple positions and in each of his last three full seasons of his first stint in Orlando, he helped anchor a defense that ranked in the top 10 each year. He was a core piece of the third-best defense in the league during the lockout-shortened 1999 season, in which the Magic finished 33-17 (losing in the first round to the Philadelphia 76ers in four games).

One of Outlaw’s strengths as a defender was his unique ability to be an equal opportunist when it came to amassing steals and blocks — a quick look at this list and you’ll see his name listed among some of the best defenders in NBA history. Among players whose steal and block percentages were two and four percent respectively in a single season (minimum 1,000 total minutes), Outlaw was in special company.

Outlaw was traded to Phoenix in 2001 primarily as a salary dump, bringing to an end the tenure of one of the most popular yet underappreciated players in Magic franchise history. (An interesting historical what-if: the Magic also sent a 2002 first-round pick to the Suns alongside Outlaw, which Phoenix used to draft Amar’e Stoudemire.) He returned to the Magic for the final three seasons of his career, between 2005-2008, but by that point, his days of being a productive contributor were mostly behind him.

Still, it was a fitting end to one of the unlikeliest, most unique, and most enjoyable NBA careers of its era. Bo Outlaw was exactly the type of hard-nosed, defense-first player typically ignored by the media but embraced by fans. But beyond just those cliched terms like “energy” and “hustle,” he had a real impact on the defensive end of the floor and was capable of making highlight-reel plays on offense too.

Voter breakdown for Bo Outlaw

Drexler Highkin Rivera Schiller Scribbins
Scale (1-to-10) N/A (11) 8 8 8 N/A (11)
Average rank: 9.2

What is #ORLrank?

Magic Basketball ranks the top 10 players in Magic franchise history. #ORLrank is the Twitter hashtag to use if you want to get involved in the discussion or just follow along.

You can also follow along here: @erivera7

How did we rank the players?

Five MBN writers ranked each player 1-to-10, in terms of the quality of each player.

Thanks to Daniel Myers, Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference, and Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus for contributing to the project.

5 comments
CarloSimone
CarloSimone

To me, this list all depends on our criteria on a player's importance to the franchise vs. their actual playing ability.  I think if you are creating a list based solely on ability you'd have to leave Bo off of it.  However, if we're talking about players that transcended their abilities (as Sean points out in great detail in this posting) then Bo must be included on this list.  He is a fan favorite because of his defense and hustle but also because of his personality.  That personality came through on the court in Bo's lanky free throws and body language and his big bright smile.  Usually, a guy has to mean mug and be tough to be a great defender but Bo was as tough as they come all while respecting the fact that he was indeed playing a "game".  He's still involved in the organization as a community ambassador, highlighting the fact that the best years he had in the NBA were with Orlando.  That also counts for a lot in my book.  So I fully support Bo Outlaw making the top 10.

evan_flow
evan_flow

I wouldn't have Bo in my top 10. I love him, and he's certainly one of my 10 favorite Magic players all time, but he wasn't one of the 10 best. He played 360 games for the Magic, and a good chunk of that (3 seasons, only 75 games) was at the end of his career where he was basically a liability. 

There are certainly a lot of ways to rate and rank players, so differences in opinion are inevitable. I'll try not to pretend my opinion is superior.

I'm assuming this means that only one of Hedo, Rashard or Dennis Scott makes the top 10 (probably at the 9 spot). I think all three were better. (Assuming Dwight, Shaq, Penny, T-Mac, Horace, Jameer, DA and Anderson are locks). 

Lewis is top 10 in Magic history in 3 pointers, minutes per game, points per game, TS%, eFG% and win shares per 48 minutes (or 82 games).  He's ahead of Bo in most other advanced metrics. It's close, because he was only here for 3 full seasons, but his impact in those three full seasons was a bit greater. Lewis also was an an All-Star with us, something few Magic players besides Shaq, Penny, Dwight and T-Mac can claim. I guess longevity can trump everything else here though, and Bo wins that.

Hedo is top 5 in total points, rebounds, minutes and 3 pointers. He's top 10 in assists, steals, games played and win shares. Again, I guess it's close, but his offensive contributions in out Finals run were paramount. His recent years with us have been poor, but Bo was much worse during his last 3 seasons with us than even Hedo is.

Scott has the 10th most win shares, and also is top 10 in many statistics. I'd have him ahead of Bo for a lot of longevity-related reasons. 

Bo cracks the organizational top 10 in many defensive/rebounding categories  but he's nowhere to be found in win shares, PER, vORP, EWA and so on. Maybe I am indeed overlooking his defensive prowess, which was no joke. 

I guess after all of that thinking-out-loud I'm a bit less convinced, but I still think I'd leave Bo out. It's a close call though, for sure. Curious to see who checks in at 8. 

erivera7
erivera7 moderator

@CarloSimone The criteria was simple: the rankings were based on the quality of the player mostly irregardless of tenure (though we did take tenure into account). 

erivera7
erivera7 moderator

@evan_flow I'd say wait-and-see the top 10 list before making a final judgment on Bo's placement in the rankings. I'd think you'd be surprised how well Bo graded compared to his peers in Magic franchise history. 

I'll provide a full statistical breakdown once the top 10 list is fully revealed. 

CarloSimone
CarloSimone

@evan_flow Good points.  I'd leave off Dennis Scott probably and I think at number 10 I'd have a hard time between guys like Outlaw and Scott Skiles.  3D was a great player, so if he ended up here I wouldn't have much of an argument.  I'm very curious to see where Horace Grant ends up.  I'm not sure he's the lock you think he is, though again he was a great player.