Phoenix Suns’ Archie Goodwin, center, is pressured by, from right to left, Washington Wizards’ Kelly Oubre Jr., Damion James and Scott Machado during the second half of an NBA summer league basketball game Saturday, July 11, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Ronda Churchill)
The Washington Wizards’ loss to the Phoenix Suns in their 2015 summer league opener on July 11 was just an afterthought. The 86-77 defeat saw several stretches of fluky turnovers and bad ball movement, but Wizards staff left Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas excited about Washington’s rookie swing man, Kelly Oubre.
The first-year player displayed the kind of athleticism, defense and aggression that could land him a key role in the Wizards’ rotation.Oubre’s 6-foot, 7-inch frame and lanky arms translated to a 20-point, 10-rebound night—and erased a not-so-great start, as Oubre finished as the team’s leading scorer and rebounder.
The 19-year old clearly has progress to make, but his potential is evident. Oubre can shoot from deep, run the floor, defend, talk trash to nagging opponents and doesn’t mind shooting the ball without caution. Oubre and third-year forward Otto Porter could give Washington a deadly small forward combo, if Oubre develops as expected. Second round forward Aaron White also displayed some impressive athleticism on a pair of put-back dunks, but the night was all about Oubre.
It’s no secret that Washington will be in the market for the services of Kevin Durant next summer in what should be a crazy free agent season. No one is willing to tell Durant to hold his bags while Porter and Oubre develop. But Washington will closely evaluate their two young players before committing big money to Durant, who has had recurring foot problems over the last few years.
There’s still a long road ahead for Oubre, but his summer league debut should have given Wizards executives some confidence that they made the right selection in the first round of this year’s draft. The rookie swing man isn’t expected to contribute much this season, but his athleticism and defense might be too valuable to keep off the floor.