Washington Wizards: Kelly Oubre Jr. taking his game to the next level

Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images /

The Washington Wizards have found themselves in good shape with Kelly Oubre Jr. making long strides in filling the gap for injured teammate Markieff Morris.

The Washington Wizards will have a chip on their shoulder for the 78 games remaining in their regular season and beyond into the postseason. With a strange start to the 2017-18 regular season regarding injuries to key players on numerous teams, the Wizards have their eye on the prize. While it may be tough to be the best team in the Eastern Conference when it is all said and done, it is becoming all the more possible.

The Wizards were one of the few teams who kept their starting core completely intact, while mostly revamping their bench rotation during the offseason. But as the regular season approached a key issue surfaced. Markieff Morris suffered a sports hernia and after surgery, was not expected to return to the court for 6-8 weeks from that point. There are still roughly 4-5 weeks remaining on that timeframe.

At first, it seemed likely that Jason Smith would be the go-to starter, but he also suffered a minor shoulder injury, and Kelly Oubre Jr. has emerged as a solid option at the 4, starting in three of the past four games.

Last season, one of the biggest critiques of Oubre’s skill-set was that he must improve from beyond the arc. Despite a rough preseason with less than desirable results, he has gotten back on the horse and has made long strides recently.

How Kelly Oubre Jr. fills the void of Markieff Morris

Just three games into the regular season, Oubre Jr. is averaging 36.3 minutes per game along with 10.3 points per game on 42.9 percent shooting from the field. What is intriguing about his performance thus far is his endurance in taking on far more minutes then he is accustomed too.

Last season he averaged 20.3 minutes per game; now he is practically playing a full quarter more and has come up clutch recently.

Specifically in Washington’s game against the Denver Nuggets, which was rather close through the fourth quarter, Oubre Jr. came into the fourth quarter scoring seven straight points when the game was tied and gave the Wizards a comfortable lead for the rest of the game.

It is also hard to complain about making 35.3 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc, which is a large improvement (although he’s still below league-average and four games is a small sample size). Coming off of 28.7 percent the previous season, we may now see Oubre Jr. coming into his own as an NBA player in his third season.

As far as scoring goes, he is playing his role very well. He is attempting 8.8 shots per game and hitting 42.9 percent of them. With that being said, he takes by far the fewest attempts of the true scorers on the Wizards. John Wall and Bradley Beal are averaging 18.8 shots per game, while Otto Porter Jr. is averaging 13.5 and Marcin Gortat with 8.3 attempts per game.

One last interesting tidbit in this small sample size of just four games, is Oubre’s offensive and defensive rating, as well as his defensive box plus-minus metrics.

His offensive rating is has so far improved to a 107 rating, where it was previously at just 104 at the end of last season. As for his defensive rating, he has improved to a 104 where he averaged a 110 defensive rating last season. Lastly, he defensive box plus/minus has crossed the positive threshold as of Wednesday night following their loss to the Los Angeles Lakers with a +0.7 DBPM.

Next: 2017-18 Week 2 NBA Power Rankings

As long as Kelly Oubre Jr. continues his upward trajectory this season, the Washington Wizards’ rotation will be in much more reliable hands after the return of Markieff Morris.