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Kelly Oubre will be worth the wait for the Wizards

Following their selection, Randy Wittman and Ernie Grunfeld both expressed that their new draft pick may not be ready to contribute right away. While true, there's still reason to like the pick.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

It'll be easy to chalk up Washington's selection of Kelly Oubre, the lanky 6'7" athlete out of Kansas, as a nod to Golden State's army of 6'6" wing defenders. It became the buzzword all evening along with "position-less basketball," "switch-everything defenses" and whatever else you can link to the Warriors defense.

But that's a tricky path to follow. The Warriors may have a stable of wing defenders that gives them lineup flexibility, but what unlocks their switch-everything scheme is Draymond Green, who can string out a Mike Conley 30 feet from the basket and neutralize Marc Gasol on the block in the same possession. That's a luxury not many teams have, certainly not the Wizards, and they passed on a prospect that could conceivably bring a semblance of that in a pinch in Bobby Portis, who would have been had at 19 without giving up two future second rounders.

There's no downplaying their lack of depth at the four either. Nene showed his age throughout the season, and it's unclear whether they can rake in his replacement with limited resources this summer either. They'll look to slide him up a position behind Gortat at the five, but that could mean starting Kris Humphries, who isn't very fleet of foot defensively and hasn't proven he can extend his range beyond 18-feet. I don't doubt that they'll exhaust every avenue to find that player this summer be it through trades or with their mid-level exception, but the draft served as their most cost-effective method, and it's unclear whether they'll find someone more suitable for that role than Portis.

It's also possible that they simply came away from Portis' pre-draft workouts unimpressed. Maybe they soured on his ability to function as a full-time stretch-4 after seeing his unconventional shot mechanics up close, or that they simply weren't as high on him like the other seven non-lottery teams that passed on his services.

Regardless of where the Wizards stood, they've now armed their own stable of wing defenders with this selection. It's not quite the Warriors model, smarter teams will scheme to take advantage of their lack of girth by posting up on the block against mismatches, and between Porter and Oubre, they'll have to bulk up before giving any thought to playing the four. But they also don't have a player like Stephen Curry that they have to actively hide against better teams, making them that much tougher to score on, and with Oubre, they're looking at a potential stopper down the line. Let's go through this pro prospects further:


The first thing that jumps out to you is how smooth his jumper looks. His shot mechanics are compact; he has a nice follow through when he squares himself to the basket and generally gets good lift. But what separates him from the rest of the shooters in this class is how he gets his shot off against defenders rushing out at him. He gets off the ground very quickly (which aids him on the glass), and for better or worse, is able to beat defenders closing out on him by speeding up the process of his shot.

oubre release

That's a tough shot to make. The pass is off-target and over his head, but he still generates enough power by dipping the ball down to get his legs into his shot, all while having to avoid a defender right in his vicinity. Again, there's always the downside to shooters who don't sport consistent mechanics, and in his case, he'll frequently short-arm his shot when he feels rushed. That tends to flow into his poor off-the-dribble game as well, as he'll take a few ill-advised shots in traffic despite having a defender draped all over him.

oubre pull up

But there's still value in hitting contested shots, especially off catch-and-shoot opportunities in which John Wall is feeding you those looks. How many times did Bradley Beal or Paul Pierce pass up threes last season because a defender happened to close out on them a little quicker than expected? That wouldn't be the case with Oubre; he'll take those looks because he knows he has the length and jumping ability to get his shot off.

Here's his shot chart courtesy of ShotAnalytics:

oubre shot chart

The lack of midrange attempts shows he's not comfortable creating his own shot. What's more concerning though is his success rate once he gets into the painted area. He doesn't have many advanced dribbles aside from a nice spin move he'll flaunt if he has enough space, but more often than not, he's driving into the teeth of the defense without much of a plan. Help defenders will regularly crash down on him and he'll still struggle to find the open man, and what that leads to is a lot of inefficient floaters and helpless rim attacks against big men waiting for him at the rim.

He didn't light the world on fire after being touted as the heir apparent to Andrew Wiggins, and a large part of that was due to his shooting. He shot a good-not-great 36 percent from downtown but only 32 percent in Big-12 play; reminiscent of Beal's lone season at Florida. But unlike Bradley, he wasn't playing out of position, nor did he have to worry about stepping on anyone's toes. Kansas needed him to be the man from the onset, but he failed to make much of a mark as he would start in only one of his first nine games, totaling just 31 points in the process.

He found his footing in the middle of the season though, giving everyone a glimpse of what he can become. The question to me isn't whether he'll become a good marksmen from deep -- he should -- but whether he can develop a floor game to attack closeouts and make plays off kick-outs.


The same caveats that you typically see from great collegiate defenders apply to Oubre. He's a terrific athlete with outstanding lateral quickness, but will often cede driving lanes because he's not always in great position or isn't in a low enough stance to slide his feet. He can fill up the stat sheet defensively with his quick hands and instincts, but he falls susceptible to backdoor cuts. He can help-and-recover from the weakside, and has good closeout speed, but he'll sometimes get over over-aggressive in his pursuit.

All of that is reason enough for Randy Wittman and Ernie Grunfeld to echo what many draft pundits have thought in regards to his potential. He's not ready to contribute just yet. He'll have to fill out his frame and possibly redshirt the year to gain a better understanding of the schemes, but once he's there, the sky is truly the limit.

That's him going under the initial screen, still sliding east and west to cut off the ball handlers' first drive to the basket, forcing him to reset. He then cuts off his drive again, recovers nicely after his man crosses back over to the middle, and manages to contest the shot.

As for the quick hands? This is what he's suckered so many players into last season.

Hold the ball in front of him for even a split-second and he's bound to get his hands on it. The combination of length, lateral quickness, and ball-hawking ability is downright scary.

Draft grade: B

I respect the front office's decision to stick with their draft board, but I'm not so sure I'd rank him ahead of Bobby Portis, who I thought fit their team to a T. Still, the idea of having Wall, Beal, Porter, and Oubre out there will make for a formidable perimeter defense, especially if the latter two pan out as "3 and D" prospects.