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2021-22 Hornets Player Preview: Kelly Oubre Jr

The big offseason signing will be looked upon to anchor the Hornets bench when he’s not filling in as a starter.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets-Media Day Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

One year after surprising most of the NBA world by landing Gordon Hayward in free agency, the Charlotte Hornets went out and did the same on a much smaller scale with the signing of Kelly Oubre Jr. They brought him on with a two year deal with the expectation that he’ll lessen the burden on Gordon Hayward to play heavy minutes and anchor the bench with his play on both ends of the floor.

Oubre probably is thought of in a more negative light than he should on the NBA Internet due to his struggles with the Warriors last season, particularly at the beginning of the season. In the first ten games of the season, he shot 33.6% from the field and made 7-of-51 3-point attempts. It was a historically poor 3-point shooting start to the season. That first impression has kind of lingered and hidden the fact that he shot 46.6% from the field and 35.5% from three while averaged 16.6 points per game for the rest of the season.

Those numbers line up with the player Oubre developed into with the Suns. In his last season in Phoenix, he averaged 18.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. That’s the player the Hornets are hoping they signed.

Oubre isn’t a strong passer for his position and tends to be a rather high usage player. That should work out okay on the bench, and the Hornets have enough play makers to make the most out of his tendency to finish plays and perhaps unlock some previously unseen passing ability. He’s a streaky outside shooter that will command enough respect from defenses to create space, and he’s a strong driver that gets to the foul line at a high rate. He should thrive in transition with a Hornets team that will be looking to run at every opportunity.

He’s a play maker defensively, though some of his advanced metrics haven’t always lined up with his box score stats. He generates a whole lot of blocks and steals for a wing and his a terrific rebounder for his position on both sides of the floor. His on/off numbers defensively have been up and down, but ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus looks upon him favorably. In short, it’s tough to know exactly what we’re going to get here.

When the Hornets are at full strength, Oubre will come off the bench. We only got to see him for limited minutes in the first preseason game before he left with an ankle injury, but in that game, he was the first sub off the bench along with PJ Washington. That will likely be the plan on most nights, with Oubre subbing in for Hayward to pair up with LaMelo Ball’s pace as part of a super athletic lineup of Ball, Oubre, Washington, Terry Rozier, and Miles Bridges. That will allow Hayward to provide a calming presence and offensive play making on a bench unit that otherwise may be somewhat lacking in those areas.

Oubre fits what the Hornets have been building. He’s still young and has shown potential at multiple stops throughout his career. He’s long, athletic, and fits into the energetic culture the Hornets have created. His career to this point and the nature of his signing making it somewhat reminiscent of the Hornets’ acquisition of Terry Rozier. With Rozier, the Hornets picked up a slightly successful but mostly unproven young veteran, and he has since turned into a franchise cornerstone. The Hornets will be hoping they got something similar in Oubre.