The draft picks the Wizards made on Thursday in Kelly Oubre and Aaron White are about the future, not the 2015-16 season when they hope to at least advance to the Eastern Conference finals. And it lines up perfectly with the vision that was explained here earlier in the day.
The Wizards believe they'll not only get Paul Pierce back -- if he opts out of his contract he can re-sign for about a $1.1 million raise -- but their core of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat is strong enough for them to contend this upcoming season provided they make the right decisions in free agency. They don't have any room under the salary cap and are limited with what they can do but will have a veteran mid-level exception and a bi-annual exception at their disposal.
Oubre, a 6-7 small forward is viewed as a must because of his potential to defend, play in the open court and make three-pointers. He was a top 10 player coming out of high school and even though his one season at Kansas wasn't anything special president Ernie Grunfeld and coach Randy Wittman contend he's a sleeper who needs to develop. So did Kansas assistant coach Kurt Townsend who talked with CSNwashington.com last night.
"He gives us something different, something we don't really have. Someone who gets up and down the floor, has a 7-2 wingspan, he can guard both positions," said Grunfeld, alluding to shooting guard as well. "We're not expecting him to come in here next year and take over the program."
Wittman was mired in the NBA season which is a grind and didn't see much of Oubre until he surveyed the game footage of him following the Wizards' second-round exit from the playoffs.
Given that there was learning curve for Oubre, 19, when he arrived at Kansas and didn't start the first nine games the NBA will take even more time to pick up.
"We felt all along that this was an opportunity that this kid was a lottery-pick type player and one that down the road has an opportunity to be a pretty good player in this league. That was our thinking there," Wittman said of Oubre. "You got to look at your team with Otto (Porter) being a young guy at that position and (Oubre is) another guy that can guard multiple positions and a guy playing alongside Brad (Beal) and Otto.
"It's going to take time as it does with any young kid. I can't tell you what that timetable is without being with him and working with him and seeing where he's yet, his personality and how quickly he picks things up. Those are things we'll learn about him. In terms of the whole scope of the thing, a great ceiling. Down the road, he'll be a pretty good player."
A frequent criticism of the Wizards is they lack the developmental structure for young players like Oubre because they don't have a one-to-one affiliation with a D-League franchise. They're banking on they can succeed with him because he's just that talented while White is expected to play overseas for at least a year and return next summer with more seasoning and roster spots open. If he pans out, he could be a true stretch power forward they've lacked.
Maybe the Wizards can have it both ways, be as strong of a team for 2015-16 while grooming Oubre and White. They'd have key pieces in place for next summer when they have a plethora of cap space to go after Kevin Durant in free agency. They gave up second-round picks in 2016 and 2019, a small price to pay actually since they'll likely be at the back end of those drafts, to move up for Oubre.
If it works out on all fronts -- and that's a big IF that every move is a home run -- they'll be championship contenders for a long time and have the supporting cast around their stars to do it.
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