This past summer, Kelly Oubre had one goal in mind: Get everyone to put some respect on the Wizards’ name. He embraced the team’s collective inferiority complex, as he and his fellow teammates have grown tired of feeling underestimated and underappreciated.
But in order to do something with that chip on their shoulder, Oubre and the rest of the Wizards know they have to take another step forward this season. On a team with so many known commodities, Oubre is one of the few players who can dramatically change the team’s trajectory through his development.
Like most young players, the Wizards are searching for consistency from Oubre. Defense will always be his calling card, but he has a high ceiling on the offensive end as well. Over the summer, he worked with his trainer Drew Hanlen on creating his own shot and taking advantage of the opportunities others create for him.
In the season opener against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, Oubre produced on both ends to help them get a much-needed win to start the season. After Jason Smith left the game with a right shoulder injury, Oubre brought some life on defense with a pair of steals and a pair of blocks, and tied a career-high by making 3 three-pointers. They came in handy on a night where the rest of the team shot a combined 3 of 16 from deep.
His strong debut didn’t come as a surprise to John Wall, who spoke highly of him after the game. “I can be honest with you and tell the truth, since training camp and practices, he’s been doing great,” he said. “He’s willing to listen and that’s what’s helping him to improve. Even though this is just one game, he’s going to be a big part of our team.”
Oubre played the entire fourth quarter and came through in a critical moment to help swing the balance of the game. After Philadelphia cut the lead down to two points, Oubre cleaned up a missed Bradley Beal three-pointer in emphatic fashion.
The play energized the crowd and gave the Wizards the momentum they needed to finish the game. It was a great moment, even though Oubre doesn’t quite remember how it all came to be. “I blacked out so I don’t really remember what happened,” He said. “I just remember jumping in the air and seeing my arm inside the rim.”
Oubre can be a fill-in starter for a team with aspirations of making the conference finals, even if he’s closer to the age and experience of someone who should be in Philadelphia’s core group. Last season, Brooks found success with Oubre playing alongside Wall, Beal, and Porter. He liked how the four of them could switch from-ball handlers to wings. With Jason Smith potentially missing time, it certainly seems like Oubre will get a chance to start, although Brooks wouldn’t officially commit after Wednesday’s game.
“We’re gonna consider it just to see how things how are, the way it looks,” Brooks said. “I’m not going to corner myself into that decision now, but we’ll see how Jason’s feeling, we’ll see how we feel we can matchup the best way, and get production from the entire team it’s not just one guy it’s the mix of that brings to the team that I have to factor in. It’s a decision tonight, I thought was growing up right in front of our eyes and it’s good because he’s earning it and I’m not giving him anything-he’s earning it.”
For the Wizards to fulfill their mission, Oubre consistency will be key. If he continues to bring it on both ends, it will help Washington get the respect they’re seeking.