Washington’s Stretch

Thanks to this years NBA champions, we now know you can win playing small ball. People who doubted whether the Golden State Warriors could win a title did so because they questioned that brand of basketball.

With a 6-foot-7 Draymond Green playing center at times and small forward Harrison Barnes playing big, skeptics just assumed Golden State would eventually have to bring a more physical lineup to the table.

The Warriors had the ability to play big, but oftentimes, they made opposing teams adjust to their small lineup.

It’s the new wave of the NBA. Traditional centers are slowly being replaced by stretch big-men like Anthony Davis who can shoot from range, play inside, and guard multiple positions. Lineups are equipped to run and shoot more.

The Wizards joined the party late last season, moving Paul Pierce to power forward at times during their first-round playoff matchup against the Raptors. The result was a quicker, more efficient, and evenly spaced out team. Always better late than never, Washington swept Toronto.

So what’s not to like about Washington’s draft additions on Thursday night?

Kansas forward Kelly Oubre at No. 15 has been a polarizing pick. ESPN NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh gave the Wizards selection a thumbs down. In this Bleacher Report video, Ric Bucher loved the pick.

We can sit here and debate whether or not there were better players available, or if Oubre was worth the second-round draft picks Washington traded, but the only question that really matters is if the Wizards filled a position of immediate need? The answer is absolutely.

Pierce opted out of his contract and is a free agent this summer. Wizards brass is confident he’ll return but even if he does, at 38 years old his minutes will continue to be limited.

At minimum, the 6-7 Oubre, a uber-talented, lengthy stretch forward, gives the Wizards depth at a position Pierce made effective in the postseason.

The worst case scenario is Pierce decides to take his talents elsewhere, Otto Porter steps into the starting lineup, and Oubre is forced to play more minutes off the bench then initially expected. I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.

Porter has steadily improved each season in the NBA and came up big in major minutes during the postseason. He’ll just get better. Also, Martell Webster is still on the roster, and assuming he’s healthy again, he’ll contribute off the bench.

I don’t think Oubre is a player that can succeed if asked to play isolation basketball, but on a team that values pick-and-roll and transition points like the Wizards, I think he can step in and contribute right away in a limited capacity – especially with a playmaking point guard like John Wall. Imagine a lineup with Wall, Bradley Beal, Porter, Oubre, and Marcin Gortat. It’s off to the races!

For some reason, analysts seem to think Oubre will have to consistently produce right away and that’s just not the case, especially under Randy Wittman. Oubre will have a chance to come in, learn, earn his playing time, and hopefully by the time the playoffs come around he’d have carved out a niche for himself.

He’s supremely confident in his abilities and he wants to be in Washington. If Pierce sticks around, what better mentor to learn the game from?

My only concern with Oubre stems from his inconsistencies at Kansas and whether or not that came from complacency or a slow learning curve. Giving him money is either going to make him work harder or give him even more reason to relax. I’m not in a position to say which way he’ll go. All we can do is wait and see.

Had he been joining the Wizards of years past, when Javale McGee, Andray Blatche, and Swaggy P were the stars of D.C., I would be concerned. But adding Oubre to a team of professionals ready to win now, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Wizards second-round pick Aaron White, from Iowa, apparently adds a similar skill set (with a shorter ceiling) as a stretch forward but will be on the fringe of the roster going into training camp.


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