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Kelly Oubre, Jr. may take on larger role due to injuries, and rebounding could be key

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Kelly Oubre, Jr. may take on larger role due to injuries, and rebounding could be key

The Wizards have two players sidelined at the moment and both happen to play the same position. Markieff Morris was already out following the sports hernia surgery he had in September, then Jason Smith sprained his right shoulder defending a dunk attempt by Joel Embiid in the regular season opener on Wednesday night.

This has put head coach Scott Brooks in a tough predicament. He's trying to acclimate new players into his rotation, but now has no choice but to get creative. Smith is considered questionable for Friday night and is likely going to be limited, regardless when he returns.

If Smith misses time or is not 100 percent, the onus will fall mostly on third-year forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. with Mike Scott behind him. Oubre is not a power forward, but is versatile enough to co-exist with Otto Porter alongside John Wall, Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat. The Wizards utilized that lineup last season at times and relied on it heavily once Smith departed Wednesday night's game. Porter could be looked as the four in that group, but he and Oubre are essentially interchangable on defense.

Oubre, 21, came through with 14 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals against the Sixers. He knocked down three three-pointers and shot 5-of-10 from the field overall.

"I'm ready. I've worked for this moment. The season is here, so it's time to put the work to the test," Oubre said. "I feel very confident. I feel very relaxed. This is Year 3, so I'm excited for all the opportunities that may come."

[RELATED: OUBRE THREW DOWN A CRAZY DUNK VS. SIXERS]

Those eight rebounds stand out, in particular. Oubre averaged 3.3 rebounds last season, his second year in the NBA, in 20.3 minutes. Oubre had 14 in one of their preseason games and has clearly put extra focus on that part of his game.

One reporter (me) asked Oubre about his 'seven' rebounds in the opener and Oubre issued a quick correction, showing exactly how much attention he's paying to the stat.

"I had eight in the opener, but yeah," he said. "It's a big emphasis because that's what we need. We need guys to go in there and rebound, push the break and keep up the pace. That's the style of play that we're looking for, to play fast and play tough. Crashing the boards is something that I need to do to help the team."

Brooks sees a lot of potential in Oubre's ability on the glass. 

"I look at rebounding as a stat that Kelly can really be consistent with. He has the size, the strength, the length and the athleticism and the toughness to get in there and get some rebounds. I think you should be able to see [eight] every night. It's one of the things we talked about to improve defensively. We have to be a better defensive team," Brooks said.

The Wizards miss a lot more than rebounding if Morris and Smith aren't in the picture, of course. But Oubre's development in that area could be important in the Wizards' effort to compensate for two key injuries at the same position.

[RELATED: GORTAT PLAYED WITH A HEAVY HEART VS. SIXERS]

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Kelly Oubre, Jr.s development is giving Wizards options both in short-term and long-term

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Kelly Oubre, Jr.s development is giving Wizards options both in short-term and long-term

Kelly Oubre, Jr. keeps taking his game to new heights. On Friday night against the Pistons he set a new career-high with 26 points and tied a personal best with five threes.

Though Oubre is not a starter, he produces like one. He is the Wizards' third-leading scorer since Thanksgiving. That's 28 games, or slightly more than a third of a full, 82-game season. 

Oubre has reached double figures in points this season in 28 of his 46 games. He's dropped 15 points or more in four straight and has hit multiple threes in each of his last seven.

Oubre's three-point percentage on the season is now up to 40.5 percent, way up from his 28.7 clip from a year ago and he is starting to separate himself from other NBA bench players. Only three reserves are averaging at least 12 points per game and shoot at least 40 percent from three. It's Oubre, Lou Williams of the Clippers and Nikola Mirotic of the Bulls.

What he's doing is also rare for his age. Only five players 22 or younger are shooting 40 percent or better from beyond the arc this season with at least 100 attempts and Oubre is one of them.

Oubre is still capable of making mistakes from inexperience, ones that frustrate head coach Scott Brooks. There have been several instances this season where Oubre has made the wrong decision based on clock and score awareness. Like many young players, he sometimes gambles on defense and pays for it.

But those errors are becoming few and far between. Oubre is playing well beyond his years and is making an impact on both ends of the floor. Perhaps most importantly, his development is giving the Wizards options both in the short-term and the long-term.

The Wizards' starting lineup has not been nearly as consistent as it was last season. Though they beat the Pistons on Friday, Brooks has hinted at changes if their issues continue.

John Wall and Bradley Beal are having seasons worthy of All-Star recognition. Meanwhile, Otto Porter has been hot and cold, Markieff Morris is averaging just 10.0 points and 5.5 rebounds per game and Marcin Gortat has seen his minutes go up and down. Oubre gives Brooks multiple options if he does want to shake up their starting lineup.

In the big picture, Oubre's development gives the Wizards flexablity. He's making just $2 million this season and $3 million the next. That is far lower than what Porter ($24.7M), Morris ($8M) and Gortat ($12.8M) are getting paid. If the Wizards wanted to turn to Oubre, they could save significant money with a trade.

The Wizards may keep Oubre right where he is, on their bench as the sixth man. But if they want to make a change, either big or small, he has given them more options than they had just months ago.

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Utah Jazz make guard Rodney Hood available, would Wizards be a fit?

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Utah Jazz make guard Rodney Hood available, would Wizards be a fit?

Momentum is building towards Utah Jazz shooting guard Rodney Hood getting dealt before next month's NBA trade deadline. Marc Stein of the New York Times reported on Saturday that multiple teams have already expressed interest in the four-year pro:

Hood, 25, is on an expiring contract and would provide scoring for a team in the market for offense. He's averaging 16.7 points this season on 41.3 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from three.

Hood isn't a very efficient player, but he can stretch the floor. He's also big for his position at 6-foot-8 and is a very good free throw shooter (86.2%).

The Wizards could use help at the shooting guard position with Bradley Beal logging heavy minutes. They have an improved bench after making several upgrades last offseason, but shooting guard Jodie Meeks has yet to establish a consistent role in their rotation due to his low shooting percentage.

The Wizards don't necessarily need offensive help, but Hood could help take pressure off of Beal. He could also play in lineups with both Beal and John Wall.

It's unclear what the Jazz want in return for Hood and whether the Wizards could make a worthy offer. If Utah is taking the longview to build for the future, that could mean a first round pick and the Wizards have already parted with their last two.

Regardless, if the Wizards decide to target shooting guards in the next few weeks, expect Hood's name to come up.

RELATED: DID THE WIZARDS' TEAM MEETING BACKFIRE?