When Kelly Oubre committed to attend Kansas last year he was following hot on the heels of Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2014 NBA draft. While Oubre’s arrival in Lawrence didn’t have quite the same amount of hype that accompanied Wiggins’, the expectations for the young wing were high, nevertheless. Unfortunately for the player and the Jayhawks, Oubre never quite lived up to his billing as the No. 8 player in the Recruiting Services Consensus Index coming out of high school last year. It was a roller coaster season for the 6’7″ forward, and one that culminated with Oubre declaring that he was leaving Kansas and entering the 2015 draft.
It’s not a surprise that Oubre decided to end his collegiate career after a lone season since prospects of his particular talent level don’t tend to become sophomores very often these days. But the 19-year-old would have benefited immensely from another season under coach Bill Self‘s tutelage, as well as improved his likely draft position in the process. Oubre’s stats on the season were hardly eye-popping, with the player appearing in 36 contests and averaging 9.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 0.8 assists, and 1.1 steals in 21.0 minutes per game. His slash line for the campaign was .444/.358/.718.
The wing’s numbers weren’t diminished by playing in a platoon system like that of Kentucky’s, but rather because Self made Oubre earn his way onto the court at the beginning of the season. Oubre only logged in excess of 10 minutes in a game twice during his first seven contests, averaging a paltry 2.1 points per game during those cameo appearances. But Self’s reticence to play his young player appeared quite justified since Oubre looked lost on both ends of the court more often than not during this stretch. While he eventually showed flashes of the talent that had him projected as a top five pick prior to the season, Oubre didn’t have a great campaign overall, and ended it with a nine point effort in Kansas’ NCAA tournament loss to Wichita State.
Oubre possesses the prototypical tools for a NBA wing player, opines Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com. The swingman’s measurements have him listed as standing 6’7″ in shoes, with a wingspan measuring between 7’1″ and 7’2″, Givony notes. While Oubre isn’t quite an elite athlete, he is a quick and fluid player who moves extremely well without the ball and in transition. He possesses a sweet 3-point stroke and is a strong perimeter defender, a skill that should translate well to the NBA, Chad Ford of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) writes.
Offensively, Oubre’s most NBA-ready attribute is likely his jump-shot, as he has soft touch, natural scoring instincts, a nice follow through, and smooth mechanics when in rhythm, Givony adds. The lefty is bit of a gunner though, and he has a tendency to fire away with ill-advised jump shots instead of trying to beat his man off of the dribble. Oubre doesn’t have a solid midrange game, and he is the kind of player who’s either launching a 3 or dunking at the rim, Ford notes. The ESPN scribe also adds that Oubre’s personality can be polarizing, and he resembles the Cavs’ J.R. Smith in game as well as demeanor.
The 19-year-old isn’t a strong ball-handler yet, and he has a fairly high dribble that slows him down off the bounce and works against his athleticism, Givony notes. Oubre has difficulty driving and finishing with his right hand, which hinders him in half court sets when he tries to get to the rim, the DraftExpress scribe adds. Givony also notes that Oubre is just an average finisher when he does venture into the paint, making only 53% of his shots when around the basket.
While he may have entered college a potential top five pick, Oubre is no longer expected to be taken quite that high come June. ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) ranks him as the No. 12 overall prospect while DraftExpress.com slots Oubre at No. 13. It’s the swingman’s distinct lack of consistency which characterized Oubre’s season, which led to the slide, not a lack of talent. That is a commodity the young player happens to possesses an abundance of, though it will require a patient NBA team to maximize.
In a draft that currently has Justise Winslow, Stanley Johnson, and Mario Hezonja ranked ahead of him at the wing, Oubre may have been better served to bide his time in school until 2016, which is currently projected to be a weaker draft than this year’s. The pre-draft workouts will be vital for Oubre, especially when he goes head to head with some of the other wings also vying for draft position. Oubre’s ceiling might just be the highest out of any of the rookie small forwards entering the league, but it will likely take Oubre a number of seasons to reach that level. My prediction is that Oubre’s the third wing taken off the board after Winslow and Johnson, and that he’ll hear his name called toward the end of the lottery.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.