The blessing and curse of having a young player like Kelly Oubre is that he's moldable. There's still time for them to go down a number of career paths that could lead to success. But as we approach the final month of Oubre's rookie season, it's becoming more and more clear Oubre will be one of two types of players.
If you've watched Oubre at all in Summer League or his various garbage time performances, you're familiar with this version of Oubre. Though he hasn't been great at finishing through contact to earn and-one opportunities, he's still getting to line at a good rate. He averaged 6.7 free throw attempts per game in Las Vegas, and is averaging a very solid 3.7 free throw attempts per 100 possessions as a rookie. D'Angelo Russell, by comparison, is averaging 3.8 per 100 possessions.
Just as importantly, Oubre isn't settling for mid-range jumpers. Only 16 of his 163 field goal attempts this season (9.8 percent) have come from that area. Everything else has either been in the paint or beyond the arc. Obviously, he still needs to work at improving his shooting percentages in both areas, but he's been persistent at getting to those spots to give himself the best chance to develop in those areas.
The challenge here, other than improving Oubre's strength so he can finish better inside and his stroke so he can force players to close out on him, is that he lacks great court vision. He only has 11 assists in 554 minutes of action this season. That's good for exactly one assist per 100 possessions. The only other players who are averaging 1 assist or less per 100 possessions who have played at least 500 minutes this season are Hassan Whiteside, Kosta Koufos, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Bismack Biyombo -- big men who do most of their damage offensively within three feet of the rim.
If Oubre can't develop his passing game, it's going to be harder and harder to find ways to put the ball in his hands, because it limits what the team can do offensively and makes it easier for the opposing defense to load up and keep him from getting to where he can score effectively.
Spot-up, 3&D player
A player who can score effectively in the paint and beyond the arc is the most valuable commodity in the NBA, but a wing player who can score from outside and play stellar perimeter defense isn't far behind, if the contracts we've seen in recent years are any indication. Just ask Wes Matthews and Danny Green.
Most of the time when Oubre is on the floor he's the one being asked to take on the scoring load, but when he's paired with John Wall, he's taken on a much smaller, and much more efficient role.
Playing alongside Wall isn't just padding Oubre's numbers, it's had a positive effect on the entire team. Washington went 6-3 with in the 9 games Oubre has started this season. Seven of those games were against teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. Additionally, the Wizards' Net Rating with Wall and Oubre paired together is higher than any other pairing with John Wall on the team (except for the very small sample size of Wall and Alan Anderson paired together over the past two weeks).
The extra energy he saves on the offensive end also allows him to be more aggressive on the defensive end, where he can use his length to alter shots and passes on the perimeter. Obviously, he still has some things to learn to make the most of his defensive tools, but the willingness is there, and the numbers show he isn't dragging the defense down when he's playing alongside the starters.
Lots of players get a nice uptick in efficiency when they play alongside John Wall, so his performance with the team's star player isn't enough by itself to justify more playing time. But the fast track to a steady role on the team is there for the taking if he continues down this path. He can pick up some useful skills by continuing to expand what he can do attacking off-the-dribble when needed, but developing into a force without the ball first is Oubre's best path to making an impact in the NBA.