Kelly Oubre Jr. had to approach this offseason very differently than he did last year. As a rookie heading into the 2015-16 season, Oubre wanted to make an immediate impact, but between former head coach Randy Wittman not being fond of playing rookies and a group of veteran free agents signing throughout the month of July, it was clear the minutes would be hard to come by.
The Wizards hired Scott Brooks this summer, a coach that is famous for developing young players into today’s stars. The minute Brooks was signed, Oubre knew that he had a realistic shot to play significant minutes whether it be as a quick option off the bench, or possibly as the starting small forward.
Despite the ongoing battle between Oubre and Otto Porter for the starting position, Oubre has been coming off the bench in the first two preseason games. You can’t take too much from the NBA preseason, but the signs that he is showing indicate that he can be a viable option for the Wizards this season, and it would better for the team’s success if he came off the bench.
In the first game against the Miami Heat, Oubre came out shaky. After the game he claimed that he had a lot of jitters when he first checked in, but once he got settled, his skills were on full display. The youngster finished with a solid 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field and 2-for-2 from deep while grabbing four rebounds.
The good thing about Oubre’s performance was the versatility he showed with the ball in his hands. He had a good mix of taking his man off the dribble and attacking the rim, which resulted in seven free throw attempts (making four). Also, he was ready to catch-and-shoot from the perimeter when his teammates would drive-and-kick. Perfecting that alone would guarantee him plenty of time considering point guard John Wall is one of the better penetrating guards in the league.
In the team’s second game against Philadelphia, Oubre topped his first performance by scoring a game-high 24 points. Once again, he shot efficiently by going 8-for-12 from the field, 2-for-3 from three and 6-for-8 from the charity stripe:
It isn’t only on the offensive end that Oubre can have a significant impact. Whenever Oubre is brought up to Brooks, the coach claims that the 20-year-old has the skills and tools to become an elite defender in this league. Brooks would always follow those statements with the fact that he has to stop gambling so much. “He just needs to be solid,” Brooks said after the loss to the Heat.
It’s clear that Brooks is in Oubre’s corner. He played 33 minutes against the Sixers, the most that he has been on the floor in a long time:
Extended playing time against PHI helped Kelly Oubre learn and grow pic.twitter.com/suJO97Mh72
— WizardsXTRA (@WizardsXTRA) October 8, 2016
In terms of the position battle, the team and Oubre may be better off allowing him to come off the bench even as the regular season rolls around. For one, it gives Brooks a scoring weapon off the bench that can also guard multiple positions. For Oubre, he can get the majority of his time with the reserves so that he can stay aggressive and maintain a scoring mindset. It’s been beneficial as shown thus far throughout preseason.
Oct. 27 is still a long ways away, but so far, so good for Oubre.