Wizards need im­proved play from Oubre

In lim­ited min­utes, re­serves strug­gling

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY MATTHEW PARAS

Kelly Oubre iden­ti­fied a “sim­ple” rea­son for his re­cent shoot­ing stretch.

Dat­ing back to the reg­u­lar sea­son, the Wizards for­ward is shoot­ing just 31.7 per­cent over the last 12 games — and 22.9 per­cent from be­yond the arc.

“Just life, bro,” Oubre said last week. “Sim­ple as that.”

OK, then.

Re­gard­less of the rea­son, the Wizards need Oubre to step up dur­ing the team’s first-round se­ries against the Rap­tors — par­tic­u­larly af­ter Toronto’s bench helped swing Satur­day’s con­test.

In Game 1, Oubre logged only 16 min­utes and went 1-for-4. He played 11 fewer min­utes than his reg­u­lar sea­son av­er­age, a sign coach Scott Brooks isn’t will­ing to tol­er­ate mis­takes. Brooks said he would cut the ro­ta­tion, and the re­duced min­utes for the bench are com­ing, partly, at Oubre’s ex­pense.

If Wash­ing­ton’s re­serves are go­ing to see fewer min­utes, they need to take ad­van­tage of the lim­ited play­ing time by be­ing pro­duc­tive.

That starts with Oubre — who showed flashes of break­ing out in last year’s play­offs. The 22-year-old played well in the sec­ond round against Bos­ton, which juiced ex­pec­ta­tions for him prior to this sea­son.

But Oubre’s “jump” hasn’t re­ally hap­pened.

Out­side his shoot­ing slump, Oubre’s had prob­lems de­fen­sively through­out his ca­reer. He misses back­door cuts, fails to make the right ro­ta­tion and doesn’t con­tain as well on op­pos­ing wings. He’s had men­tal lapses.

“With Kelly, I just want him to fo­cus on the de­fen­sive end,” Brooks said. “I would like for him to make some shots, but the game re­wards you if you work on the de­fen­sive end . ... He hasn’t been a good de­fen­sive player.”

Oubre is still young, and he’s been only in the league for three sea­sons. There’s still time for him to im­prove. He has the tools, namely the length and wing­span, to be, at least, an av­er­age de­fender.

But part of the rea­son his de­vel­op­ment gets so much at­ten­tion — and why he’s needed in this se­ries — is that the Wizards’ bench has been a tire-fire be­side him. They’ve slightly been bet­ter this sea­son, largely due to To­mas Sa­toran­sky’s im­prove­ment and a nice find in Mike Scott.

The Wizards’ bench lags, how­ever, in com­par­i­son to Toronto, and frankly, most other teams. The unit ranked 18th in net rat­ing, be­ing outscored 3.4 points per 100 pos­ses­sions.

Wash­ing­ton does face some chal­lenges when it comes to round­ing out the ros­ter. The trio of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter all make the max — mean­ing there’s lim­ited flex­i­bil­ity be­cause of the salary cap.

Still, that doesn’t ex­plain some of the head-scratch­ing moves from gen­eral man­ager Ernie Grun­feld. Look no fur­ther than Thurs­day’s ac­qui­si­tion of veteran point guard Ty Law­son. There are now five point guards on the ros­ter — when Wash­ing­ton only has one backup wing (Oubre) and no backup shoot­ing guard, due to Jodie Meeks’ re­cent 25-game sus­pen­sion for a drug-pol­icy vi­o­la­tion.

Yes, any ad­di­tion this late in the sea­son likely won’t see play­ing time dur­ing the post­sea­son. But why didn’t the Wizards pre­fer adding a wing? At the time, Porter was ques­tion­able for Game 1 with a right calf strain.

Brooks said they could use Sa­toran­sky, who’s 6-foot-7, to play on the wing, if need be.

“Let’s face it, To­mas is one-two-or three with John com­ing back and play­ing heav­ier min­utes,” Brooks said. “We look at him as a wing player, a wing de­fender, a wing ball mover.”

Against the Rap­tors, Sa­toran­sky hardly saw the floor. He played 12 min­utes, with Brooks pre­fer­ring to ride Beal and Wall.

In the play­offs, stars are go­ing to play more. Brooks wants to keep at least one of his two All-Stars on the floor at all times.

But there are mo­ments where a sec­ond-unit can come in and help spark a late run. That’s ex­actly what hap­pened in Game 1 when Rap­tors re­serves Delon Wright and C.J. Miles took over in the fourth quar­ter of the Wizards’ 114-106 loss.

The Rap­tors had the ros­ter ver­sa­til­ity, so coach Dwane Casey could trust his bench in big mo­ments.

The Wizards don’t have the same lux­ury, though they need more from guys like Oubre and Sa­toran­sky.

“I’ve def­i­nitely learned from the slump, I will say that,” Oubre said. “I’ve put in the gym count­less hours, def­i­nitely putting in the hours and the reps . ... It’s all men­tal. I feel bet­ter now and to­mor­row is a new day.”

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