"Was the Kelly Oubre Jr. pick surprising?" is a question coming up a bunch. The answer is yes, but only with context. I was about to share such thoughts on the Wizards selection with a few tweets, but when a few turned into many, I switched to a blog post.
Whether Paul Pierce stayed or not, I'm thinking the Wizards are in the Eastern Conference title chase. Without much free agent wiggle room, this player needed to help in 2015-16.
Also, with this coach, inconsistency doesn't play. Most rookies have such issues, but Oubre had them during his one season at Kansas. Also, no self-run D-League team with which to stash. I cooled on other frosh (Kevon Looney) for similar reasons.
Granted, you shouldn't pass on upside for short-term especially since John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter are long-term plays.
Based on the current-day scenario (19th pick, limited cap space, East race), only true UPSIDE I'm thinking about now for Wizards is 2016 free agent Kevin Durant.
Players typically linked to Wizards at 19, like Bobby Portis and R.J. Hunter, certainly intrigue. For mostly athletic reasons, taking them would be like swinging for a double. That's no knock. If you read anything I wrote pre-draft you know I liked those two and others lots.
Also doesn't mean they couldn't be more. In my opinion*, seeking out a "double" was the Wizards aim at 19. Why?
(*There were essentially no leaks/rumors from national or local media about which direction Washington was headed. By comparison, Oklahoma City was linked to Cameron Payne weeks ago. The Thunder drafted the Murray State guard at 14.)
The Wizards' rotation next season, while mostly intact from a second-straight playoff run, has holes (shooting, mobile power forward, true third guard, backup center) and that's counting Pierce staying. Address needs for push as East remains wide open.
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Taking Oubre equals swing for the fences. If we ranked every player in draft just based on "upside," Oubre is top-8-ish. 6-foot-7 small forward with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, great frame and playmaking style. We can tell he doesn't lack for confidence.
That potential is mostly based on athleticism and wingspan, not college production, of which there was little, though he certainly improved over time.
Now, don't freak over these comparisons. View in context of draft prospect not result. In previous drafts, team president Ernie Grunfeld took big swings on athleticism with JaVale McGee and Jan Vesely However...
Unlike those two, Oubre was consistently deemed a lottery pick for over one year, according to DraftExpress.com's mock draft history. ESPN ranked Oubre 11th best prospect in 2014 class, ahead of D'Angelo Russell. The Los Angeles Lakers drafted the Ohio State guard second overall Thursday.
Draft Express mocked Vesely 61st in drafts in May 2010. One month later, he zoomed to third overall. One year later, Wizards picked him sixth. Ironically, the same site had McGee as the 61st pick three months before the 2008 Draft. Soon after, they bumped up the big man to 18, which ended up being where Washington selected McGee. Apparently the basketball world, including the Wizards, swooned hard for those athletic freaks.
If anything, the Oubre heat cooled slightly, but the overall general range burned consistently. As recently as December, DraftExpress had Oubre 5th in 2015 NBA Mock. His status dipped with initial limited playing time at KU. (Averaged eight minutes per game in first seven games before finishing at 21 on the season).
Unlike Vesely, Oubre already provides some tangible skills. He shot 36 percent on 3-point attempts and 72 percent at the free throw line at Kansas.
Let's see what happens.