Washington Wizards’ Kelly Oubre Celebrates 21st Birthday With Breakout Game

Washington Wizards forward Kelly Oubre recently celebrated his 21st birthday with a breakout game against the Milwaukee Bucks.

On December 8, Kelly Oubre celebrated his 21st birthday with a legal glass of wine.

For about a year, Oubre has been sitting on the Washington Wizards’ bench, patiently waiting for an opportunity to showcase his talent – the talent that Ernie Grunfeld saw before he traded up in the 2015 NBA Draft to snag the former Kansas Jayhawk.

Under head coach Randy Wittman, Oubre had played less than 700 minutes, with veterans Marcus Thornton and Alan Anderson receiving playing time over the rookie at the end of the season.

With Scott Brooks in D.C., Oubre was supposed to get more of an opportunity to play.

A solid run during NBA Summer League – one that earned Oubre an honor – seemingly propelled Oubre into the Wizards’ rotation. His performance in the off-season, coupled with Brooks’ known player development, was supposed to place Oubre among the Wizards’ core.

But 22 games into the season, Oubre’s playing time has been erratic.

Oubre played 22 minutes in the season opener against the Atlanta Hawks and 15 minutes in the next game in Memphis, but then played just 7 minutes against the Toronto Raptors.

In the following game against the Hawks, Oubre didn’t play a single minute.

After that stretch, Oubre’s playing time continued to fluctuate.

Against the Orlando Magic on November 5, Oubre played 17 minutes. Four days later, Oubre played just 3 minutes.

That sort of inconsistency hasn’t allowed Oubre to flourish.

Surprisingly, Brooks hasn’t allowed Oubre to play through his rookie mistakes, often dictating playing time based on current performance rather than the future.

Since the Wizards are struggling to stay within reach of the 8th seed, Brooks has been relying more on the veteran players than expected.

As a 6-foot-7 swingman, Oubre has all the physical tools to contribute at a high level in the NBA.

His tendency to try to do too much – he often overdribbles and forces shots in traffic – has made it hard for Brooks to give him the green light, especially since the Washington Wizards aren’t winning games.

A day after his birthday, though, Oubre showed another flash of the player he could develop into if the Wizards continue their investment.

On Saturday night, Oubre scored a career-high 19 points and grabbed 9 rebounds off the bench in 29 minutes.

He made 7 of the 11 shots he attempted, including 3 of the 6 he tried from beyond the 3-point arc.

Instead of relying on an all-bench unit, Brooks decided to switch things up by yanking Markieff Morris out of the game early. Morris, who’s become one of Washington’s most reliable go-to options, was tasked with leading the second unit offensively.

The early playing time with the starters, particularly John Wall and Bradley Beal, gave Oubre an opportunity to play a Trevor Ariza-like role.

Oubre, who handles the ball with the second unit, spotted up in the corner, moved without the ball and scored as the defense focused on Washington’s backcourt. He also crashed the glass, cleaning up some of his teammates’ misses inside.

When he’s on the court with Washington’s starters, Oubre is used as a decoy, which mitigates most of the mistakes he makes when he plays with the second unit. Wall looks for Oubre in the corners as he drives and the big men have done a solid job of connecting with him as he moves without the ball.

Going forward, Brooks will likely continue playing Oubre with the starters. His energy, in particular, has been a game-changing factor for the Wizards, as noted by Bucks coach Jason Kidd.

“He was good,” Kidd said. “He had a big offensive game, rebounding the ball, came up with a big steal there in that fourth. He was active and he helped them get a win.”

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