The play of Kelly Oubre, Jr. over the past calendar year had made the Wizards picking up his contract option an increasingly easy decision. On Saturday, they opted to keep him for the fourth year of his rookie contract, the 2018-19 season, and did so with a week to spare before the deadline.
Oubre, 21, has emerged as a key contributor for a Wizards team with expectations of a deep playoff run. He is still finding his trule role in the NBA, but with his youth and potential, and the fact he's still on a rookie deal, Oubre has a unique place on their roster.
John Wall and Bradley Beal have already emerged as stars. Otto Porter still has room to get much better, but has already arrived and earned a max contract. Oubre, though already established in their rotation, has plenty of room to grow.
Oubre, the 15th overall pick in 2015, doubled his minutes last season to 20.3 per game under head coach Scott Brooks with averages of 6.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 0.7 steals per game. He earned Brooks' trust mainly on the defensive end with his versatility and high motor.
Consistency is where Oubre needs to improve, but through two games this season he appears to have taken another step. Oubre added two inches to his vertical leap over the summer despite rehabbing from platelet-rich plasma treatment on his right knee. He also gained some muscle, allowing him to make strides as a rebounder. Oubre has 15 rebounds through two games and said it's specific focus of his.
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The Wizards are a good enough offensive team currently to where Oubre can focus on defense and rebounding. But his growing confidence on offense has been evident so far this year and especially in the preseason. He has worked on dribbling with his right hand and the result is more aggression attacking the rim. Though still not a polished product, Oubre is taking small steps to emerge as a more dangerous scoring threat.
The Wizards will have another decision to make on Oubre this time next year. One day before the 2018-19 regular season begins, they will have to choose whether to hand Oubre a rookie scale contract extension. They weren't able to beat that deadline with Porter and the next summer he received a $106.5 million max deal after hitting the market as a restricted free agent.
Oubre at this very moment wouldn't command that type of money in free agency, but the same was said about Porter at this point in his career. Porter was able to improve significantly in his fourth season.
Wizards majority owner Ted Leonsis said this summer that he would love to have Oubre force the issue with his performance on the court.
"He's going to come back and work really, really hard and challenge us to pay him a lot of money, too, which I'm glad to do," Leonsis said.
It's early in the season, but Oubre may be on his way towards making the Wizards ponder his long-term future.
The Washington Post first reported Oubre's contract option getting picked up.
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