- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Kelly Oubre Jr.’s wild final 12 days of the season were unrivaled.

He lost his temper and charged Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. He was suspended for Game 4. Oubre played 20 minutes in Game 5. He was removed from the rotation in Game 6, after playing just seven minutes. He played six seconds in Game 7, put onto the court only to make sure others could begin a break and not gather a foul before halftime. A day later, he revealed he had an MRI on his knee the prior week, but did not know the results because he asked not to be told.

That’s a manic stretch to close a fluctuating year for the 21-year-old, second-year player.

Back to the MRI. Oubre will need platelet-rich plasma injections in his right knee — as first reported by ESPN and confirmed by The Washington Times — which is the all-important drive leg fulcrum for a left-hand dominant player.

Once healed, Oubre will have a bevy of things to address in the offseason. The Wizards hope another summer of work brings progress, because what Oubre becomes in his career will have significant influence over Washington’s future.

Oubre’s knee began to bother him at the beginning of April, according to a source. The PRP treatment is expected help remove the pain in his knee during the start of the offseason.

Platelet-rich plasma therapy re-injects an enriched version of a patient’s blood into an injured area. It is believed to help expedite healing.

Backup center Ian Mahinmi used the method on both knees this season. He was expected to miss six weeks because of the procedure, which he did. However, Mahinmi was coming off knee surgery earlier in the season. Oubre’s recovery timeline is expected to be shorter.

While he recuperates, the team’s assessment of what he can become is paramount. When Oubre was drafted — costing two second-round picks so Washington could move up — he was viewed as a possible successor to Otto Porter as the team’s starting small forward. However, Oubre’s first two seasons and Porter’s standout 2017 show a large gap currently between the two.

Porter is a restricted free agent this summer. Instead of working toward an extension with Porter last summer, not necessarily something Porter would have taken, the Wizards chose to play the season out. Now, it will cost them. Porter finished fourth in the league in 3-point shooting percentage and continues to operate as a key-in-lock fit with one of the best starting units in the league. Porter was also second in the league in effective field-goal percentage among non-centers. He will be expensive to retain this offseason. Markieff Morris even claimed Porter should receive a maximum contract.

Oubre’s progress, or lack thereof, appears to have put Washington in a position of having to retain Porter in order to maintain. Year-over-year, Oubre’s shooting percentages declined. He shot just 28.7 percent from behind the 3-point line this season, taking a step down from the 31.6 percent he shot his rookie season. That was also the worst on the team among regular rotation players. According to basketball-reference.com, Oubre shot 32.7 percent on jump shots this year. Dunks accounted for 26 percent of his field goals.

Oubre’s postseason net rating was a catastrophic -25.6 That was easily the worst among players who had played 10 or more games in the playoffs. It eventually earned him a seat on the bench in the final two games against the Celtics, something he took in stride.

“My job is to play [when asked],” Oubre said. “I was cheering my team on. I was locked into the game all 48 minutes. I felt like I was in the game, even though I wasn’t.”

Two other numbers jump out from Oubre’s season: He finished with more fouls (233) than field goals (212) for the second consecutive season. And, his defensive rating (an estimation of points allowed per 100 possessions) rose to 110 from 106. That is in part is because he had tougher assignments in his second season. It’s also of note that Oubre delivered moments when he appeared on a path to being a superior defender. They were just not maintained.

The two caveats necessary when assessing Oubre are age and work ethic. He will not be 22 until December. He has also shown a willingness to work.

Kelly has a bright future,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “He’s a young developing player. If he continues to improve … and he will. He’s going to take some time off, but he’s going to get back on the court and get better. I think some of the things he needs to improve on is just that defensive mentality. Doing it every time he’s on the court because he has the ability, but you have to be able to do it every night. That’s one of the things that he’s going to continue to get better with. His outside shooting is something that is going to have to improve, and it will because he puts the time into it.”

Oubre said he wants to improve his ball-handling, noting the clear uptick in that department from Bradley Beal this season. Beal and Oubre both workout with trainer Drew Hanlen in the offseason. One thing Oubre does not want to do is go back to Summer League.

Combine the thoughts of Brooks and Oubre, and a thorough offseason checklist forms: Shooting, defense, ball-handling. First, will come rest for his right knee. Then, the Wizards need to determine what their commitment to Porter will be. After that, the role for Washington’s only first-round draft pick of the last four seasons will become more clear.



Click to Read More

Click to Hide