Washington Wizards’ Kelly Oubre Looking To Crack Rotation Before 2017 NBA Playoffs

Mar 7, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Washington Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 7, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Washington Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Washington Wizards forward Kelly Oubre has been in-and-out of Scott Brooks’ rotation, but has an opportunity to make an impact before the 2017 NBA Playoffs.

Kelly Oubre sat on the Washington Wizards’ bench on Friday night with his hands clasped.

Brandon Jennings checked out of the game after dazzling the crowd in the first quarter with his Globetrotter-like handles and made himself comfortable next to the usually energetic Oubre.

With Markieff Morris out due to illness, Oubre knew that his name would be called. He was itching to play, occasionally whispering something into Jennings’ ear while watching his team gain a double-digit lead against the depleted Chicago Bulls.

Two minutes left in the first quarter, Scott Brooks called Oubre’s name.

Immediately after checking in, Oubre yanked the ball away from the Bulls, causing a fastbreak. John Wall spoon fed Oubre in transition, who finished it with a momentum-changing dunk.

Washington desperately needed to re-energize their second unit after enduring their worst defensive stretch of the season during a five-game road trip. The Wizards allowed over 120 points per game on the trip, displaying a lack of intensity on the perimeter and physicality inside the paint.

Oubre, for all of his faults, is what the Wizards needed to spark their defense.

On multiple plays, Oubre disrupted the Bulls’ offense, creating easy opportunities to score before Chicago’s defense got settled.

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Oubre finished the game with just 4 points, but impacted the game in ways that go beyond the stat sheet.

His SportsCenter worthy block on Denzel Valentine, in particular, inspired the Wizards, eventually leading to a narrow victory at home.

Following the much-needed win, Brooks credited Oubre with his performance.

“He came in with focus on the defensive end. That’s simple with me and Kelly – if he comes in active defensively, he gets opportunities,” Brooks said.

Heading into the postseason, Brooks – like virtually every other playoff-destined head coach – will cut his rotation down to about 8 or 9.

Currently, Ian Mahinmi, Bojan Bogdanovic and Jennings are the only players guaranteed to come off the Washington Wizards’ bench.

Tomas Satoransky manned the backup shooting guard position for the past week, but was largely ineffective. Per-36 minutes, Satoransky has averaged 7.6 points, shooting just 7 times – evidence of his lack of confidence.

Oubre, 21, is brash and often looks to leave his imprints on the game, even when it comes out of rhythm. He tends to force the issue, jacking up contested shots or driving into multiple defenders in the paint, only to lose the ball without getting a referee to blow his whistle.

Through his erratic play, Oubre has flashed star potential with his athleticism, making it a developmental failure if he sits on the bench.

Now that there’s about 20 games remaining in the season, Oubre will have to consistently play, and more importantly, accept his role on Brooks’ team.

“You’re going to get opportunities by playing with great effort and focus on the proper things that you need to do your role,” Brooks said. “I thought he was really good tonight. Hopefully that can continue.”

As a 3-and-D wing, Oubre’s opportunities on the offensive end will be relatively limited.

Unless he finds his stroke from behind the 3-point arc, his scoring chances will be almost nonexistent. Defensively, though, Washington will depend on Oubre to create havoc, hopefully leading to scoring breaks on the other end.

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Against the Bulls, Oubre was switched onto Jimmy Butler, who looked to tie the game with a 3-point shot at the buzzer. Oubre forced Butler into a leaning three, which clanked off the back of the rim.

It was just a glimpse of the player Oubre could be and the player the Washington Wizards want him to become.