The Case for Rising Star Kelly Oubre to Go to NBA All-Star Weekend | Wizards Blog Truth About

The Case for Rising Star Kelly Oubre to Go to NBA All-Star Weekend

Updated: January 13, 2016

The Wizards, almost halfway through this season, have been relatively quiet for a franchise that has flashed just enough potential over the last two postseasons to make their fan base believe they can contend in the Eastern Conference. Down Memory Lane, the Eastern Conference is still synonymous with “Leastern Conference” and a fledgling team can hover around the .500 mark and sit comfortably in the playoff mix. But today, for the first time in what seems like a decade of basketball, the East is just as competitive—if not more so—than the West.

With the Wizards currently sitting outside of the playoff landscape, there isn’t a lot of chest-pumping and bravado emanating from D.C.’s Chinatown these days. This lack of buzz, along with the fact that most Americans don’t ever see the Wizards play, is the same reason why John Wall is feeling slighted for not being a leader in All-Star votes—like he was last year—despite recently being named Eastern Conference Player of the Month in December.

Well, as it turns out, we still live in a “What have you done for me lately?” society. The Wizards are playing mediocre basketball. Can you blame external entities for being disinterested? (No. The answer is no.) Wall will still likely end up making his way to Toronto for his third consecutive All-Star appearance—he’s earned it. But John may not be the only Wizard deserving of a trip to The North for All-Star weekend.

Kelly Oubre is quietly making his case to get a request from the league to get his passport ready. He belongs in the league’s Rising Stars Challenge.

At just 20 years old, the rook is showing signs of potential as a high-end athletic wing—one that Ernie Grunfield might actually feel proud enough to put on his draft resume. No, this does not mean that Oubre is on the cusp of superstardom. Hell, he might not even be in the Wizards rotation once Bradley Beal and Alan Anderson reach healthy status. But Oubre’s fill-in production has been a contributing reason as to why the Wizards are just two games back of the 8-seed, instead of being full-blown participants in the Ben Simmons sweepstakes.

This opinion isn’t just shared by homers insulated within Wizards nation. In a recent ESPN Insider article, Chad Ford and Kevin Pelton spoke highly of Oubre as being one of the more productive rookies in the 2015 draft class. Ford ranked Oubre number seven on his list of top 10 rookie players with the highest upside:

“I think Oubre just oozes potential and all the recent injuries in Washington are giving him a chance to be a really effective two-way player, especially if he keeps shooting the ball that well.”

Pelton praised Oubre, even when drawn in a direct comparison with the player who a majority of Wizards fans wanted to draft, Chicago Bulls rookie Bobby Portis. Portis would have been a great pick for Washington given their lack of depth at the 4 spot, but the Wizards owed it to themselves to take a calculated risk on Oubre, who many would consider having more upside than Portis. Ford touched on that ever so briefly.

Much of Oubre’s early success starts with his surprising shooting stroke. For a guy that did not come into the NBA career with a reputation as a sharp-shooter, Oubre is shooting at a level that suggests that he will be able to fulfill the 3-point obligation of the “3-and-D” player going forward. The rook is shooting 41.5 percent from the arc on the season. Credit shot selection. The former Kansas Jayhawk is hitting the analytic sweet-spots. More than one-third (34.7%) of his attempts come within three feet of the basket and 40.6 percent of his shots are 3s. That’s 75 percent of all of his shots being high-efficiency tries. With a True Shooting percentage (1) of 53.0 percent, Oubre ranks ninth among the rookie class.

Oubre has also made himself an able finisher on the offensive end, shooting 44.4 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s, an essential ability when playing with a point guard like John Wall, who does an amazing job of passing his teammates open and putting them in the best best possible position to score. In fact, every one of of Oubre’s 3-pointers have been assisted this season. That tells us is that Oubre is not yet comfortable creating his own shot in the NBA, or at least that he doesn’t try to force jumpers off the dribble. And that is quite OK: the Wizards aren’t relying on Oubre to be a ball-handler or creator, they are relying on him to be a finisher.

While Oubre has already garnered praise from head coach Randy Wittman for bringing a level of intensity to the Wizards on D, he is still a rookie, and as such he’s prone to making a few mental errors on the defensive end. He has a long (long) way to go to reach the levels of, say, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, or Paul George.

The fact that Oubre, a willing and try-hard defender, boasts a 7-foot-2 wingspan is an added bonus and acts as a deterrent for shooters, even when he is out of position. The long wingspan not only allows Oubre to stay active in the passing lanes, getting deflections that lead to live-ball turnovers, but it also is a huge benefit on the glass. Oubre ranks eighth in the rookie class with an 18.4 rebounding rate, which places him just behind young bigs, 6-foot-11 Nikola Jokic (20.6) and 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein (18.8).

A lot of NBA analysts have gone out of their way to rave about the potential of another rookie, Justise Winslow, but Oubre has outperformed Winslow in almost every advanced metric that you can think of—and their traditional statistics look eerily similar, despite Oubre averaging nearly half the minutes as Winslow.

Oubre Per 36 Minutes:
12.3 PPG, 42.5 FG%, 40.0% 3FGA, 6.8 REB, 0.7 STL, 9.40 PER

Winslow Per 36 Minutes:
7.3 PPG, 39.2 FG%, 22.7% 3FGA, 6.2 REB, 1.0 STL, 6.55 PER

Even better: Oubre pretty much ranks in the top 15 in every advanced metric among the rookie class, as he should as a top-15 draft pick.

Oubre has already flashed enough stuff this season to have #WizardsTwitter salivating over his future worth, but his actual on-court production has been enough to warrant at least some recognition from the league. The Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend has recently changed its format from the standard Rookie vs. Sophomores game of years past to the USA vs. Team World game, seen last year. The rook deserves to showcase his athleticism in a (meaningless) game against his NBA peers, and the Wizards franchise deserves a chance to pat themselves on the back for swinging for the fences on a draft selection (giving up two second round picks in the process) and, for now, not having struck out like drafts of year’s past.

  1. TS% combines a players FG%, 3P% and FT%.
Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. Bylines on bylines on bylines.

Will write for food.