The Washington Wizards have been using their summer break to focus on team building and player improvement. The Las Vegas Summer League Tournament certainly isn’t the NBA Finals, but for teams that missed the playoffs last season, like the Wizards, the tournament serves as an added opportunity to spot growth among the league’s first- and second-year players. It’s been all about Kelly Oubre Jr. and Jarrell Eddie for the Wizards over the last week as both players paced Washington’s summer squad. After making several waves at the start of free agency, Washington didn’t make any additional moves over the last week to add players, leaving them with just the summer league to focus on. The AFRO recaps the week that was for the Washington Wizards.

Washington Wizards’ Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) has his shot blocked by Chicago Bulls’ Dez Wells (32) during an NBA summer league basketball game Saturday, July 16, 2016, in Las Vegas. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

Washington Wizards’ Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) has his shot blocked by Chicago Bulls’ Dez Wells (32) during an NBA summer league basketball game Saturday, July 16, 2016, in Las Vegas. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

July 10: Wizards Fall to Hawks 88-80

The Washington Wizards fell to the Atlanta Hawks, 88-80 in a game where Oubre led all scorers with 21 points, backed by Eddie’s 19. The loss notwithstanding, Oubre was aggressive early in the contest before running out of gas late in the game. He attacked the paint which led to several free throw attempts and added two assists and two steals. A slow start put Washington in an 18-point hole, but Oubre and Eddie battled the Wizards back into the game. Eddie nailed three-of-six from long range as he helped sparked the team. But he would save his best for the next game.

July 12: Washington Trumps Brooklyn, 87-85

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Washington’s electric 87-85 win over Brooklyn was the sheer number of Wizards players and coaches scattered throughout the gym to support the younger players. John Wall, Bradley Beal, Trey Burke and head coach Scott Brooks were all in attendance at Cox Pavilion as Eddie took a late turnover coast-to-coast to finish a layup with .01 remaining to give Washington the thrilling win that sent Wall ballistic in the stands. Eddie and Oubre scored 16 points, apiece with Eddie’s last pair of points ultimately winning the game.

July 14: Wizards Ekes Out 71-60 Win Over Atlanta

Another slow start added up for an early 17-point deficit for Washington. The Wizards would fully complete the comeback this time, however, grinding out a 71-60 win over Atlanta. Oubre was heroic, scoring 22 points while connecting on three-of-six shots from long range, including a deep shot with under a minute left that put the game out of reach. Along with six rebounds, it was Oubre’s finest summer league performance in two seasons.

July 16: Wizards Fall Beneath Bulls’ Charge, 88-85

With a matchup against Chicago in the Summer League Quarterfinals, the Wizards couldn’t make enough plays late in the game as they fell in an 88-85 decision. Eddie led the charge with 22 points, six rebounds and four assists, but his deep three-pointer hit off the front of the rim as time expired while Chicago celebrated. Oubre scored 17 points and added seven rebounds but shot just four-of-15 from the field and one-of-seven from long range. The loss dropped Washington to 3-2 in Summer League play.

Next: With their stint in Vegas now complete, Washington can turn back to free agency and will keep their eyes open for any trades that can benefit the team. Oubre had a strong showing over the week and Eddie made a powerful case that he deserves a spot on the Washington roster. The attendance for Washington’s game against Brooklyn was an indication that the team is a close unit. With a young roster and a new coach, Washington’s offseason is vital for player development and building cohesiveness. For Wall, age 25, Beal, 23 and Burke, 23 to all be in attendance – mostly for Oubre, 20 – it shows that the team is trying to buy into coach Brooks’ processes and team building. Washington’s roster is young, but if the team progresses then the Wizards could be looking at better results next season after missing the playoffs last year.

 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO