Kelly Oubre Jr. has long been a three-point gunner; he’s attempted at least 4.5 threes per game since his third season in the NBA despite never surpassing 35.2 percent from deep in a season. But during his years with Phoenix and Golden State, Oubre was a bit of a pest defensively.
Even through Oubre’s own admission, he wasn’t much of a defensive pest in his debut season with the Charlotte Hornets. Head coach Steve Clifford mentioned that he could step it up and get back to bothering opposing scorers on a nightly basis this season on top of being among the most literal embodiments of the term “microwave scorer” the league has to offer. There will be more shots to go around this season after the Hornets lost one of their top volume scorers — if Oubre can maintain a level consistency from beyond the arc while rediscovering his defensive aggression he’s going to become a favorite of Cliff’s.
The consistent shooting has not come to fruition through two preseason games (9-25 from the field, 4-15 from three combined), but the team’s defense as a whole seems improved from last season and Oubre contributes to that. Length, lateral mobility and underrated verticality at 6-foot-7 allow him to cause havoc on defense and those traits are accentuated when Clifford’s scramble/help scheme is being executed.
We just didn’t see these kind of defensive possessions from Charlotte the past few years. Communication + help defense / positioning is pretty impressive. pic.twitter.com/XJ5a9xI9af— Spencer Percy (@QCHspencer) October 4, 2022
Even if Oubre doesn’t rebound defensively (double entendre for those keeping count at home), the floor-spacing threat he provides will continue to be useful alongside a playmaker like LaMelo Ball that can make an array of kick-out passes from various angles. His minutes per game may not change much under Clifford, but there’s an opportunity for Oubre to play himself into a more prominent role when he’s on the court if he can defend and shoot with better consistency, especially if there are plans to rest Gordon Hayward throughout the season.
This roster is littered with rookie-scale deals and younger veterans, but Oubre is one of the few with extensive experience as an NBA player. He's been in many different locker rooms, gone through being traded, coaching changes, and has more or less settled into who he is and what he provides on the court. Perhaps this season —a contract year for the eighth-year veteran— Oubre shoulders a bit of a leadership responsibility. He seems to have taken to rookie Bryce McGowens already. With his role as the team’s best bench scorer and replacement starter solidified to open the season, it’ll be interesting to see how Oubre grows in his second year in Charlotte.
Oubre on sharing advice with Bryce McGowens: “It all starts in your head and it’s a mental game. He’s like myself in a sense. He’s very laid back but on the court he’s got all the tools and is athletic.”— Schuyler Callihan (@Callihan_) September 26, 2022