Kelly Oubre Jr.'s Time Is Coming
As the Washington Wizards enter the 2018-2019 NBA season, their starting lineup is looking strong as ever with the addition of Dwight Howard. However, the question that still lies is if their new bench pieces will be enough to complete what has been missing from the team for years.
The Wizards captured the likes of Austin Rivers and Jeff Green, both players who have shown glimpse of incompetence along with a flash of potential. As well as signing a 20-year-old center, Thomas Bryant, who hasn’t had a chance to exactly show all of his strengths. More than likely, the Wizards will look to a 22-year-old small forward Kelly Oubre Jr. to take the role of the team’s Sixth Man. Washington fans should not see this as a loss. In fact, Oubre is just beginning to develop into the great player he will be.
Over his three years in the NBA, Oubre has already began to take his skills to the next level, especially his offense. Oubre brought his PPG up over five points from the 2017-2018 season. This is quite a leap, considering that coming into the league, his high value draft trait was his natural aptitude for defense.
One of his biggest flaws upon arriving to the NBA was his inability to shoot consistently, particularly from the 3-point line. Despite the doubts, the kid from the University of Kansas worked on his shot and is finally starting to see improvement. While his shooting percentage from three still isn’t exceptional, (Oubre averaged 34% for the 17-18 season), it’s still an improvement from his 28% in the previous season.
Even so, Oubre’s corner threes are beginning to become such a pattern that towards the end of the year, defenders needed to stay attached to him to deflect a chance of an open look. Oubre also seems to have found a cheat code on how to get in to the paint. Whether it’s using that deadly pump fake to get around a defender or handling the ball enough to shift in to the lane, Oubre will do what it takes to penetrate. When he gets within arm’s reach of the basket, which I’d imagine isn’t very hard with a 6’7 wingspan, then there is a good chance Oubre will finish, as indicated by the commendable 64% field goal percentage at the rim last season.
An alternative reason for Wizards fans to look to Oubre as the poster boy of the bench is his stellar defensive techniques. Dating back to his Kansas days, Oubre made a name for himself as a nuisance on defense. Oubre is the kind of defender where if you are lazy with your dribble, his hands are right there waiting to take the ball from you. His pesky defense is enough to get in inside the heads some of the best players in the league and throw them off their game. Oubre’s length is a great help when guarding players who have a game based around their handles. His length is also a big help when coming in for a swat on help defense.
Oubre’s confidence and attitude may be why people look at him negatively now, but he will be the X factor down the road. Off the court, Oubre’s confidence speaks loudly with his trendsetting fashion statements. One can only assume the confidence needed to nickname yourself something as interesting as “Wave Papi”.
On court, however, even the reigning NBA Finals MVP, Kevin Durant, sees this intense confidence in Oubre. In fact, Durant thinks Oubre’s high-octane personality is what separates him from other players his age. On the “Bill Simmons Podcast”, fresh after winning his first championship, KD had a few words to offer about Oubre, “I know Oubre because he came to my camps a couple years ago when he was in high school and when he was in college, his confidence level is high.”
The Warrior’s star even added that Oubre “had some dog in him” -- alluding to Oubre’s intense and physical style of play. Oubre’s ability to separate himself from the rest to stand out was alive and well then and it's still a breathing characteristic in his persona today.
Yes, the young Wizards star has a way to go. But keep in mind is that Oubre is only 22 has what feels like limitless time to grow. Growth is what we will see out of him. Looking at his development in his game and mentality in only three years in the NBA is all the reassurance needed. I think it’s safe to say the Wizards aren’t short of a promised star in the coming years.