In every NBA Draft, there are players who are NBA ready and those who are not NBA ready. Certainly, most everyone can agree Wizards' first round pick Kelly Oubre fits into the latter category. While there's plenty of evidence to suggest the Wizards' patience will be rewarded, it's important to have the right perspective on why Oubre's development will take time.
To that end, Ryen Rusillo and Chad Ford had a very insightful discussion on Kelly Oubre in a recent podcast for Grantland, which you can listen to here. The whole podcast is worth a listen, but the good stuff on Oubre comes at the 41 minute mark. Below is a transcript of their chat:
Rusillo: The way he would attack the rim sometimes, you would just want to tell Oubre "Hey, this isn't working, OK?" These drives, it's great to be able to say you want to drive to the rim, but eventually it has to pay off with some sort of a reward for the team, and it didn't always happen. But physically, he's an NBA wing a year out of high school.
Ford: I watched every Kansas game this season. No one frustrated me more than Kelly Oubre because the talent's there, and often, the evidence wasn't there on the court. In fact, a lot of NBA scouts were like, "I'm watching tape like, what exactly does he do well again?"
But here was the thing; I went to Santa Barbara, and Drew Hanlen, who I really respect, he's a trainer. He's Bradley Beal's guy, trained Andrew Wiggins last year. And he said something to me that I thought really stood out, because I thought he looked a lot better in Santa Barbara and I was a little bit surprised and he's like You know, I got the kid in, he's gotten by on his size, his athletic ability, and just raw instincts his whole career. He's never had training, he's never been taught, he's never looked at film, he doesn't really know what's going on. The word a basketball GM used was "basketball illiterate." And I think nobody really taught him how to read, right? He just went out and played. Based on everything we've heard
Rusillo: That makes sense on those drives.
Ford: And that's why he ran into so much trouble at Kansas, even defensively, he didn't know what was going on, on the court. He couldn't read and understand plays. But Drew told me, look, this kid is going three-a-days right now in workouts and that he's coming to my house at night and watching film every night and we're breaking down the film and he can't get enough of it. And that got me excited because look, if that's the problem, just the lack of education about the game -- now it takes time to develop those instincts and have that knowledge translate to the court, and I think Kelly Oubre is going to be in a rocky start in the NBA -- but if he's going to put in that work, and he's going to work with Drew every summer and if he's going to keep breaking down film and everything else, Kelly Oubre could be a monster in the NBA. With a 7'2" wingspan, he moves well, P3's also got him more explosive [Note: P3 is an athletic training firm Oubre worked with before the draft.] and more bouncy. They've worked on the hitch in his shot, he's shooting the ball better. If he develops, the Wizards got an absolute steal at 15.
I know it's a risk, and maybe he'll get to the NBA and the money and he'll quit doing all that. But if he does what he's been doing the past two months with Drew, and I told Kelly, "If you keep this up, that's why Steph Curry and all these guys are great because they never stop working on their game. They never stop learning. He's got a chance to be great.
Depending on your outlook, this is either very encouraging or very discouraging. But regardless of how you feel, it's clearly going to take Oubre some time to have an impact on the NBA level. On the bright side, the Wizards won't have to convince him he can't just get by on his athleticism. His humbling experience at Kansas showed him he needs to develop in order to make a difference and he appears ready and eager to learn what he needs to do to improve.