The third-year option on Kelly Oubre for the 2017-18 season has been exercised by the Wizards, league sources tell CSNmidatlantic.com on Saturday.
Oubre, who will make $2 million for this season, is due to get a bump to $2.1 million for next year. As a first-round draft pick, his first two years in the league are fully guaranteed and the team has the option to retain his rights in Years 3 and 4. The Wizards had to make the move, which was a formality, before the regular season starts next week.
Oubre is expected to be the primary backup for Otto Porter at small forward in his first season playing for coach Scott Brooks.
His numbers and playing time were modest as a rookie as he was not used much under then-coach Randy Wittman, but Oubre's length, athleticism and defensive instincts should make him a better fit. He averaged 3.7 points and 2.1 rebounds last season in 63 appearances.
The Wizards made a deal on draft night in 2015 with the Atlanta Hawks to move up to acquire Oubre for Jerian Grant.
CSNmidatlantic.com reported Aug. 1 that picking up the option on Oubre was a foregone conclusion. In exit interviews following a 41-41 season that landed them out of the playoffs, players told majority owner Ted Leonsis that Oubre should've played more because of his energy and defense.
When Oubre was acquired as a 19-year-old with one year of college at Kansas, president Ernie Grunfeld projected it would take him 2-3 years to develop.
MORE WIZARDS: Wizards roster skews younger, more athletic under Brooks
Most coaches are loath to change their lineup when their team is playing well. Yet, even after winning two games with Brett Connolly on the third line, head coach Barry Trotz elected to move Zach Sanford back in for Saturday’s game against the New York Rangers.
“I just try and give them a couple games when I do pull them out so that they can get maybe a little traction,” Trotz said. “[Sanford and Connolly] have been playing well. I want to keep everybody a part of that. We'll just continue to do that. I want to get Zach in.”
As a 21-year-old rookie, getting Sanford consistent playing time is important for his development. Any player making the jump from college hockey right to the NHL, however, is bound to have some growing pains.
“Talking to a lot of guys, that Pittsburgh game was faster than some of the playoff games even,” Sanford said. “That was a tough game to step into, but you even start to notice it after a couple shifts, you get going and you get used to the pace a little bit more.”
Sanford admitted to feeling frustrated after his first two games. When a young player reaches that point, spending a few nights in the press box observing the game can be a valuable learning experience.
“It's definitely good to watch from up there and some other spots and kind of see the game at a slower pace and be able to pick up on those little things” he said. “I actually watched the game at home in the video room which was cool. A bunch of different angles and coaches radioing in, you kind of figure out what they think works and what doesn't. Just to be able to see those replays and hear other guys talk about it is definitely good to learn.”
But there’s still no substitute for game experience.
Sanford gets back into the lineup Saturday as the Capitals host the New York Rangers. After spending the last few games watching the action, the young forward has some goals for how he hopes to play.
“I want to be able to make more plays, be a little more patient with the puck instead of forcing a play or just dumping it in. I think that's a big part of my game is being able to slow down, be patient and make plays. I think first few games was getting comfortable and picking up the speed and what works and what doesn't work, but I think now that I'm a little more comfortable I'll be able to slow down and make some more plays.”