SALT LAKE CITY — All of the draft debate is over. If the Utah Jazz want to win an NBA championship they have a clear choice to make.
According to Kansas shooting guard Kelly Oubre, that is.
“Whoever calls my name on draft night, I’m going to help them win a championship and give them the best shot,” Oubre said after his pre-draft workout in Utah on Sunday when asked about his defense.
“That’s why defense is so important to me, because I know I’m going to excel at the next level.”
During his workout with Jazz coaches and front-office personnel, Oubre tried to show that he has a unique ability to defend at a high level and to show he could shoot and dribble better than expected.
The 19-year-old also tried to impart a message of elevated confidence during his post-workout interview.
“My handle, my IQ, my shot has gotten better. I’m a good defender, a great defender actually,” Oubre said. “I’m pretty confident in my game, that I can stack up with the best.”
Along with being an intriguing prospect for the Jazz at No. 12, Oubre just might be the nicest cocky guy in this year’s draft.
The 6-foot-7 athlete, an All-Big 12 honorable mention player in his only season with Kansas, said he’s studied film of three NBA players he looks up to: 2015 Most Improved Player Jimmy Butler, 2014 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and this season’s MVP runner-up, James Harden.
“I feel like I can be as good as or better than those guys,” Oubre said.
Oubre didn’t mention becoming a Hall of Famer, but judging from his quotes after an impressive workout, it might’ve been simply due to a time restraint.
“I’m here with a chip on my shoulder. I will not be denied. I’m relentless at everything I do,” Oubre said. “You could say stuff about me, but I’m going to prove you wrong 100 percent of the time. I’m just here with a smile on my face and a calm, cool demeanor because I know I’m going to be great one day.”
The question remains: Do the Jazz believe he’ll be great enough one day to use their No. 12 pick on the Jayhawk who averaged 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds last year?
Walt Perrin, the Jazz vice president of player personnel, credited Oubre for competing well. He was encouraged by Oubre's shooting, which needs to improve after he hit only 44.4 percent from the field in his freshman season. He liked some of his “nice passes.” And he has room for improvement.
All things considered, Perrin said, “He had a really good workout.”
Good enough to become great?
As confident on the court as he is off it?
“He shows confidence on the court. He’s a skilled kid,” Perrin said. “He knows how to play. He plays hard. He got great coaching at Kansas this year. (Coach Bill Self) really coached him hard, made him compete, made him learn how to become a better player. He’s got a chance to be pretty good.”
Oubre could’ve told you that.
His goal Sunday, he said, was to show the Jazz “that I’m a complete player, that defense is first, that my offensive game has come a long way and just that I can be one of the best in this league one day through hard work.”
Oubre added that he’s just at the beginning of this journey. He knows he isn’t going to come in and replace Steph Curry as MVP in one season. It might take at least two or three.
“I still have a long way to go,” he said, “but I’m just setting my foundation right now and showing that I can do some of the things that people think I couldn’t.”
Like shooting consistently and dribbling with poise.
Oubre has had an interesting path to get to the NBA.
When he was 9 years old, his father, Kelly Oubre Sr., relocated his family to Texas from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated his hometown.
“We packed our stuff and we moved,” Oubre said. “It was his decision to move us and he made a right one because if it wasn’t for that time in my life, I wouldn’t be here today.”
More recently, Oubre has bounced around while trying to gain the most valuable experiences for his future NBA career. First, he transferred from Bush High School in Richmond, Texas, to Findlay Prep outside of Las Vegas. He then played one year at Kansas before declaring for the June 25 draft.
Oubre has picked up valuable lessons, experience and maturity in each new spot he’s landed.
And, despite the extra dose of confidence he displays, he’s quick to credit those who’ve helped him, including Self and his dad for the decision to relocate.
“I’m here now and Coach Self is one of the biggest reasons why,” said Oubre, pointing out how much he was pushed during his freshman season.
“I come from nothing. I come from New Orleans,” he added. “I moved to Houston when I was younger, so I left my family behind to chase my dream. I owe my dad the world for sacrificing some of the stuff he did for me.”