Under coach Randy Wittman, young players had difficulty getting playing time and routinely were on a short leash. Otto Porter's development as a rookie in 2013 was hampered by a hip injury but it took him a while to blossom. Kelly Oubre, who the Wizards traded up for last year, shined when he got his chance but disappeared from the rotation.
Under Scott Brooks, introduced as Wittman's replacement on Wednesday, majority owner Ted Leonsis expects a significant change.
"Many people in the league think very highly of Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre," said Leonsis, who made the unusual step of talking to every player during exit interviews after a 41-41 season in which the Wizards missed the playoffs. "Otto I think took steps forward but he didn't take that next step that most people think he's capable of taking. I think this is going to be a breath of fresh air for him as we go forward.
"Kelly Oubre, when we did our exit interviews, every player noted to me that he has no fear. He's really hard to play against. He has really, really long arms. He's tough to play against. The players wanted him to play more. So our coach has already recognized that and thinks that Kelly Oubre is a big asset for us. Well if that's the case to have two talented long wing players in the new NBA, two guards and two big men we now have enough pieces that we can now build around that and get back to at minimum being a playoff team."
Oubre made 63 appearances, including nine starts, to average 3.7 points and 2.1 rebounds. When Porter aggravated a tear in the labrum in his hip, Oubre made 12 three-pointers, exactly to two per game, in six consecutive outings. He was 12 of 20, or 60%, from long range which was unexpected given Oubre only played one year in college and had to adjust to the deeper shot.
He fell out of favor, however, when Porter returned and never got a serious chance to prove why the Wizards traded up to make a draft-night deal with the Atlanta Hawks to acquire him.
Brooks has security with a five-year deal that is fully guaranteed. Wittman, in Porter's rookie season, was on the last year of his previous deal and had a playoffs-or-else edict from Leonsis which undoubtedly factored into his decisions regarding rotations. Wittman was in the final year of his full guarantee this season and didn't stick with Oubre despite his promising midseason form.
Wittman also went away from him in a key game vs. the L.A. Lakers by choosing to sit Oubre after a cheap foul on a reach-in on Kobe Bryant. The Wizards could've used the 6-7 rookie with a 7-2 wingspan to bother his fallaway jumper.
Bryant erupted for 31 points and was defended mostly by the undersized Bradley Beal in the fourth quarter of that 108-104 loss.