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Thoughts from an NBA Mock Drafter on Wizards selecting Oubre

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Thoughts from an NBA Mock Drafter on Wizards selecting Oubre

"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.

Pre-draft, I only profiled 1st rounders with 19 in mind, including Oubre. Yet, honestly, I never really considered mocking him to Wizards and not because he didn't work out at Verizon Center. Why?

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.

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Trading Jodie Meeks gives Washington Wizards much-needed salary cap relief

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Trading Jodie Meeks gives Washington Wizards much-needed salary cap relief

With a luxury tax bill of approximately $19 million on the way, the Washington Wizards gave themselves some salary relief on Monday by trading veteran guard Jodie Meeks to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Wizards attached a future second round pick and cash to the deal and in exchange received a future second round pick of their own, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed. ESPN first reported the news.

Though Meeks, 31, was due to make $3.45 million this season, his departure saves the Wizards about $7 million because of projected tax penalties. That's a lot of savings in a deal that got rid of a player who had become expendable.

Meeks had fallen out of favor with the Wizards for a variety of reasons. He was due to serve a 19-game suspension to begin the season due to performance-enhancing drugs. The ban was announced the day before their first round playoff series against the Raptors was set to begin in April.

Meeks also underperformed last season in the first year of his contract with the Wizards and requested a trade in February. This summer, Meeks exercised his player option to remain with the team.

The Wizards were not likely to count on Meeks much at all this season because they traded for Austin Rivers in June to add depth at the shooting guard position. Meeks' role was made clear by the fact he did not appear in any of the Wizards' four preseason games against NBA opponents.

Meeks' tenure in Washington was a significant disappointment. The Wizards signed him last summer in hopes he could shore up the shooting guard spot on their bench. 

Though he stayed healthy for the first time in years, he never earned the trust of his coaching staff. The Wizards opted to rely more heavily on starter Bradley Beal, who logged the fourth-most minutes of any NBA player last season.

Now, they are moving on.

Meeks leaving the organization should have little effect on the Wizards, though it does leave them with a hole on their roster that needs to be filled. They currently have 13 players, one below the league minimum. The Wizards now have 14 days to add a 14th player.

They could sign a free agent, convert one of their players on two-way contracts (Devin Robinson and Jordan McRae) or make a trade. The Meeks deal gives them a $3.45 million trade exception.

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Dwight Howard practices for first time with Wizards, raising likelihood he plays in opener

Dwight Howard practices for first time with Wizards, raising likelihood he plays in opener

On Monday, for the first time since 2018-19 training camp began, the Wizards were complete.

Dwight Howard, who missed three weeks due to a strained piriformis muscle, participated in his first full practice with his new team. The 32-year-old signed a free agent deal with the Wizards in July, but had yet to take the court due to the injury, which began bothering him shortly before camp began on Sept. 25.

Howard had a setback on Oct. 6 and saw a specialist in New York. He received a pain injection on Tuesday and on Saturday began shooting again.

After clearing that hurdle, he was ready to be a full-go with his new teammates.

"It felt pretty good. I really gotta catch my wind and learn some of the offense. But other than that, it felt pretty good," Howard said of Day 1.

Howard practicing on Monday gives him two more days to work with before the Wizards open their season on Thursday at home against the Miami Heat. Both he and head coach Scott Brooks say it's too early to tell if he will be available.

"We'll see how it feels. I will do everything I can to make myself available for all 82 games," Howard said.

Howard not only has to play himself into game shape, he has to develop chemistry and timing with his new teammates. He missed all five of their preseason games.

If Howard can play, that would certainly be a positive turn of events for the Wizards. As of the end of last week, it seemed highly unlikely he would be ready when the regular season began.

But Howard turned a corner and now appears to be coming along quicker than once expected. 

"It was probably our best practice of training camp," Brooks said Monday after finally getting Howard into the mix.

"He has a natural feel. His IQ was pretty high, I was impressed with that. He picked things up."

Howard signed a two-year contract worth $11 million to join the Wizards in July.

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