WASHINGTON — The Wizards have traded away more draft picks than they’ve kept in recent years, which makes Kelly Oubre not just the primary draw for the Wizards Summer League games in Las Vegas, but nearly the only one.
Oubre is the only first-round pick on the Summer League roster, and last year’s second-round pick, Aaron White, is the only other Wizards draft pick on the team. (This doesn’t include Nate Wolters, who the Wizards technically drafted in 2013 but immediately traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for Glen Rice Jr.)
Nonetheless, Oubre, who played just 671 minutes in his rookie season, is the primary attraction for the Washington squad in Las Vegas, and he has so far lived up to the billing for the most part. Through three games, he’s averaged 19.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.3 steals and 0.3 blocks per game while leading the Wizards to a 2-1 record.
On a less positive note, he’s shot just .383 from the field and made just five of his 23 3-pointers, and he’s committed at least three turnovers in each game. He also committed seven fouls in the team’s third game; players foul out after their 10th personal foul in the regular games, but they foul out after their sixth foul in the tournament games, which start Wednesday.
He’s been far from perfect, but he’s shown off his superb athleticism and good instincts on defense, specifically when it comes to jumping the passing lanes.
He’s also been more assertive driving to the basket, something he showed in flashes as a rookie, but he’ll need to do so much more frequently to maximize his effectiveness on offense.
Last season, the Wizards desperately needed players who could create their own shot. When John Wall was on the bench, the offense revolved around Ramon Sessions and Gary Neal, neither of which is an especially desirable option. With Trey Burke, Tomas Satoransky and Marcus Thornton all on the roster this season, the bench should have a few more playmakers, but there will still be need for an athletic wing who can handle the ball, drive to the basket and find his own shot.
If Oubre enters the starting lineup, based on his own merits or injury to a starter, he’ll need to be able to knock down 3-pointers. Every wing who plays with Wall needs to have an outside shot, because his ability to generate open 3-pointers for teammates is almost unmatched. Oubre’s shooting percentage hasn’t been great so far, but he’s demonstrated an ability to knock down difficult shots and open shots alike.
It’s only been three games so far, and Oubre, as a first-round pick with NBA experience competing against mostly undrafted players, was expected to dominate. But it’s more than just his numbers that matter — he is playing like a leader on the court, and he’s maturing as a player.
The tournament games start Wednesday, but the Wizards, having earned a first-round bye, don’t play for the first time until Thursday, when they’ll play the winner of the Atlanta Hawks vs. Sacramento Kings game.