Kelly Oubre Jr: Lone X-Factor for the Wizards

Hampered by Grunfeld

During his recent tenure as the Wizards General Manager, Ernie Grunfeld has managed a trifecta of executing trades that lacked foresight, made regrettable free agent signings, and offered questionable drafting. Evidence includes:

  • Moving the 5th pick in the 2009 draft for temporary help from Mike Miller and Randy Foye - Ricky Rubio and Steph Curry were available with this pick
  • Trading the Wizards 2017 first round pick for a 3 month rental of Bojan Bogdanovich
  • Signing Ian Mahinmi to a 4 year/$64 million contract
  • Signing Andrew Nicholson to a 4 year/$26 million contract
  • Drafting Jan Vesely (instead of Kawhi) and Chris Singleton (instead of Jimmy Butler)

All GMs have made mistakes and missteps, but there appears to be a general fault in the strategy that Grunfeld chooses to follow while building this team. Sign free agents to long and painful contracts, trade away youth and picks (often times to help fix a mistake he made), and seemingly pull a name out of a hat when there is no clear-cut player to draft. All of this puts the Wizards franchise in a tricky position, where they have an extreme lack of young prospects (Grunfeld has sold or traded away all picks from the last 2 drafts), and they are pretty locked into their roster with little maneuverability. There is a rare opening in the Lebron-led East for a very good, but not great team that experienced no major changes to their roster, to sneak into the NBA Finals. Despite Grunfeld’s poor management, the Wizards have a puncher’s chance and a surprising amount will depend on the development of the Wizard’s potential X-factor, Kelly Paul Oubre Jr.

The starting 5 are who they are; led by legit superstar John Wall, they have proven to be an incredibly efficient and skilled offense and a capable defense. The bench has been a major weakness for the team, forcing Grunfeld to make that band-aid trade for Bogdanovic, losing their 2017 first round pick in the process. Bogs is gone now too, leaving the Wizards scrambling to field a bench that won’t force Wall to wear himself down by playing excessive minutes. Grunfeld actually made 2 sensible moves in signing Tim Frazier to backup Wall and sharpshooter Jodie Meeks to take over the Bogdanovich role of shooter behind Beal. They are quality backups, but Oubre has to become the bench leader for the Wizards to capitalize on the current situation in the East.

Oubre's Shaky Start

Oubre came into the league as a raw but high-upside player, boasting elite athleticism on a 6'7 frame with a 7'1 wingspan. His potential on defense alone was plenty to get Wizards fans buzzing. Oubre’s tenure with the Wizards has seen its share of ups and downs, and while his play often times passed the eye test, his advanced stats from last year say otherwise. 

Games Minutes PER TS% 3P Attempt Rate USG Rate Offensive Win Shares Defensive Win Shares Offense Box Plus/Minus Defenisve Box Plus/Minus
79 1605 9.1 51.6 42.5 14.6 0.6 1.5 -1.8 -0.5

On offense, his efficiency was below average and on defense, his immaturity showed where he utilized his physical gifts one play, then made lazy steal attempts and offered sloppy footwork on the way to averaging 6 fouls per 100 possessions. His 3 Point percentage actually went down from his rookie season, averaging a pitiful 28.7%. With John Wall as your setup man, you have to do better. As a player with so much 3 and D potential, his growth this season will be a major factor to the team's success.

Showing Flashes

In the playoffs, Oubre made some small strides, serving as a lockdown defender and improving in a few areas. His true shooting went from 51.6 to 53.5, PER from 9.1 to 10.3, 3 Point % from 28.7% to 36.7, and his defensive box plus-minus from -0.5 to 0.1. These increases, particularly the 3 point percentage, show a trend that Wizards fans will hope continues into the 2017-18 season. 

His preseason has shown flashes of this improvement, showing a physicality and diversity in his game to the tune of 13 points on 48.9% shooting, 1 3 pointer made, 5.4 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 0.8 blocks in 23.3 minutes. It’s preseason, but those look like the numbers of a guy ready to make the next step in his 3rd season.

Beyond the stats, Oubre has shown incredible explosiveness, athleticism, tight shooting form with good elevation and follow through, and the potential to be a lockdown defender. He gambles too much on defense and has been streaky as a shooter, but these are areas that can improve as he moves into his 3rd season playing with the best corner 3 passer in John Wall.

With his highlight-level athleticism and 3 and D potential, Oubre is in position to make strides in his 3rd season. Despite all of Grunfeld’s blunders, the Wizards find themselves with a window to make some noise, but they will need Oubre to answer the call and become their x-factor. Whether it's leading the bench unit in scoring or running with the starters in small ball lineups, locking down defenders and providing efficient shooting and scoring, Oubre will be needed and hopefully, he's ready to make that leap.

Kelly, one day soon, your stats might be beautiful too.


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