Kelly Oubre Jr. making name for himself on defense | ‘Hawks in the NBA

Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James (23) keeps the ball from Washington Wizards’ Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Cleveland, Saturday, March 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Phil Long)

Little stood out about Kelly Oubre Jr.’s first year in the NBA. The first-round pick out of Kansas played sparingly for a middling team that missed the playoffs, despite much loftier expectations.

Rookie seasons are made to deliver hard lessons, though. Now Oubre has transformed himself into a much more reliable member of the Washington Wizards and has played a key part in the team’s climb toward the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

A year ago, Oubre revealed recently in an interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast, he just felt happy to be in the league. The 21-year-old now finds himself in a situation, under first-year Wizards head coach Scott Brooks, where he has peace of mind and confidence, because he knows his performance is important to the Washington’s success.

The 6-foot-7 forward comes off the bench for the Wizards, and only averages 19.5 minutes and 5.9 points on the season. But Brooks needs Oubre’s defense, and the second-year wing often guards the opponent’s best wing — think: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, etc. But the athletic sub also has shown a capacity to help star D.C. guards John Wall and Bradley Beal out by defending smaller guards, such as Boston’s Isaiah Thomas.

“I think that’s something different
that these teams aren’t used to,”
Oubre said on Wizards Tipoff. “Just a
6-7 long defender coming out and
guarding point guards, especially of
the smaller caliber. It’s fun to me,
man. It’s a challenge. Obviously these
guys are great. These guys are good at
what they do. And going out there and
competing and trying to hold them from
their average is something that I take
pride in, man. I don’t want anybody to
come in and let their best player just
torch us.”

“And…

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