Kelly Oubre may be cocky but he's not overconfident. And despite his modest stat lines coming off the bench for the Wizards, the rookie is good and everyone around him knows it, too.
He started five games when Otto Porter was hurt, with averages of 8.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 75% shooting from three-point range. When Porter had to leave midway though the third quarter of Wednesday's 106-101 win vs. the Milwaukee Bucks when he hurt his right hip, Oubre came through like he always does.
The Wizards had lost a 19-point lead entering the fourth quarter, but Oubre sparked the comeback as their defense forced 12 turnovers in the final 12 minutes. He had just five points and two steals in nine minutes but in that limited time the 6-7 forward showed again why the Wizards moved up to trade for the No. 15 pick.
All five of his points came in the first 1:40 of the fourth and accounted for almost half of the Wizards' 12-0 run. Oubre's first shot was a corner three that he swished for a 78-74 lead. For the season, he's 40.4% from three-point range which is a part of his game that was expected to take longer to evolve given he'd only played one year in college and has to shoot from a greater distance.
"It started on defense though. He started off with a deflection and steal then he came down, hit a three. He was teriffic. Some free throws, too, for us that were pretty big," said shooting guard Bradley Beal, who was playing in his first game since Dec. 9, of Oubre's effort. "We need Kelly to continue to be aggressive. He has that swagger about himself, a little cockiness. It's what we need. It's awesome. We're going to continue to let him go."
Milwaukee was able to get 6-10 Giannis Antetokounmpo in mismatches against the Wizards' backcourt to make their third-quarter run. Oubre, who has a 7-2 wingspan and exceptional athleticism, sat and watched from the bench.
Maybe the Wizards (18-19) could've headed them off with Oubre drawing that assignment on switches instead of John Wall, Ramon Sessions and Beal being stuck with Antetokounmpo, who used his size advantage in isolations to get to the rim.
"Kelly came in and helped change that with his activity at the defensive end," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said of his team's lack of energy in the third. "We had 15 deflections in the fourth quarter alone. ... Kelly gave us a great lift."
This snapshot is an indication of why Oubre can't be an after-thought. He's ready.
Unlike a lot of young players, he doesn't pout when he doesn't get the playing time or obsess over offense. As soon as he checked in a game with the Miami Heat on Jan.3, he stripped Goran Dragic and Luol Deng of the ball though he only was credited with one steal. There was the three-point shot to beat the halftime buzzer on Jan. 1 to give the Wizards a five-point lead against the Orlando Magic.
When Oubre was first inserted in Wednesday's game with Milwaukee in the final 27 seconds of the third quarter, his 40-foot three-point shot at the buzzer was waved off. Then he picked up where he left off when he sparked the Wizards' run to their third win in a row.
He played 15 minutes in a Jan. 9 game with Orlando and was content to not get up a shot. In the second quarter of a game earlier this week, a win vs. the Chicago Bulls, Oubre had two points and two blocks in 15 minutes. The first block was a chasedown of Nikola Mirotic late in the second quarter to keep the Wizards up by double digits going into halftime.
In a 17-point loss to the L.A. Clippers on Dec. 28, the ball was thrown ahead to Oubre to get an insignificant dunk at the buzzer. He dribbled out the clock instead, realizing that the team played terrible at home and that there was no point in padding the boxscore with empty numbers. It's a decision that a mature player makes, not a 20-year-old who is about self.
He can be confident and cocky without compromising the integrity of the team. And if that means sacrificing points for the greater good, then so be it. It's a trait in Oubre that Nene, who can be unrelenting when young players are hard-headed and don't listen, respects very much.
"He did it. He was ready. He came in a (difficult) time. He demanded it. He just showed his personality on that hard foul," Nene said of when Oubre was hacked by Michael Carter-Williams to prevent a dunk and calmly sank both foul shots to open the fourth vs. Milwaukee. "That actually put us back in the game."
And more often than not, Oubre should be in the game.
MORE WIZARDS: Wizards could have Marcin Gortat back this weekend