Kelly Oubre has shown the Wizards faithful what he’s capable of in brief spurts during his two years in Washington but over the past few weeks, he’s finally strung together a series of strong performances for the first time in his NBA career. The timing couldn’t come at a more opportune time as the Wizards gear up for a deep playoff run and need more contributions from their bench to compensate for Ian Mahinmi’s injury.
After being a healthy scratch against the Mavericks on March 15, Oubre has shown everyone why he needs to be an important part of Washington’s rotation. After some solid spot performances in mid-March, his breakout game came on March 25th when the Wizards went to Cleveland on the second half of a back-to-back and beat the Cavs, 127-115. John Wall and Bradley Beal were the stars of the show, but it was Oubre who provided a spark off the bench with 16 points on 7-8 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and a steal.
Defense has never been the problem for Oubre. Yes, he tends to gamble for steals a little too often but for the most part, is a very good defender considering this is just his second season in the league. Oubre uses his long arms to lock guys down and deflect passes that either force the opposing team to reset their offense late in the shot clock or force turnovers. Since his breakout game in Cleveland, he’s averaging four deflections per game, the eighth-best mark in the league. All seven players who averaged more deflections also played more minutes per game than Oubre.
Not only has his defense picked up a notch, but he’s become a much better scorer, particularly from inside the arc. When Washington drafted Oubre, they thought that he’d turn into the 3 & D guy to replace the void left by Trevor Ariza. While he’s struggled with his three-point shot all season (29 percent), he is becoming much more effective in attacking the hole and with his midrange jump shot.
Prior to this recent run, if Oubre wasn’t shooting a three-point shot, he was driving all the way to the hole and trying to finish in traffic. Far too often, he would wind up taking a contested shot over a 7-footer or get rejected at the rim. After shooting just 30 percent from the midrange area most of the season, Oubre has started to show promise in the mid-range area. As his confidence grows, Brooks is starting to run plays for Oubre to curl off a screen and catch-and-shoot in the midrange.
This is a nice compromise that keeps Oubre engaged offensively in an area where he can be effective, and keeps him out of trouble near the paint. Yes, the sample size is small, but over the last 10 games, Oubre has upped his two-point field goal shooting from 50.3 percent to 57.6 percent.
Is this the new Kelly Oubre that we should all become accustomed to? Only time will tell. But one thing is for sure, he’s putting together his best stretch of play at the best possible time for Washington.