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What should the Golden State Warriors do with Kelly Oubre Jr.?

The 2020-21 season was supposed to be the Golden State Warriors’ return to the promised land. However, after Klay Thompson’s unfortunate Achilles’ tear, the Warriors needed a suitable stopgap until Thompson was fully healthy again. Enter Kelly Oubre Jr., a solid piece. But the Warriors have not performed up to par. This begs a major question. What should the Warriors do with the 25-year-old wing?

The big picture: An unrestricted free agent this offseason, the Warriors should look to bring back Oubre Jr. on a team-friendly deal that can potentially net them solid pieces in 2022.

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The Golden State Warriors are riding Oubre Jr.’s wave

2021 NBA free agents: Kelly Oubre Jr, Golden State Warriors
Feb 4, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson (13) guards Golden State Warriors guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) during the second half at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

After an historically poor start to the season – at least shooting the ball – Oubre Jr. has stepped it up a tad, averaging 15 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. His shooting splits, while not elite, have improved somewhat. He’s shooting 43.6%, 30.5% and 69%, from the field, three-point land and free-throw line, respectively.

That’s not all. Since dropping a career-high 40 points on the Dallas Mavericks on Feb. 4, Oubre Jr. has been good.

  • He’s averaging 17.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists with one steal a game in 33 minutes.
  • He’s shooting 47%, 36% and 66% from the field, three-point land and free-throw line in 26 games.
  • However, Oubre has a below-average plus/minus of -2.7 in that span.

It also has to be noted that the Warriors have gone 11-15 since beating Dallas. So while Oubre Jr. has gotten more comfortable in his role with Golden State, not everything is going well.

In the last 10 games in which the Warriors have gone 3-7, Oubre Jr. has regressed yet again, averaging 14.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 31 minutes while shooting 43%, 27% and 59% from the aforementioned areas on the court. Much like a tsunami, Oubre Jr.’s stint with the Warriors has been wavy to say the least.

Case for re-signing Oubre Jr.

With Oubre Jr. being extremely streaky at times, it’s important to note that he is only 25 and has ample time to find his groove and consistency. When Oubre Jr. was traded from the Washington Wizards to the Phoenix Suns, it wasn’t until the following year that he found some consistency in his game.

In the COVID-shortened 2019-20 season for the Suns, Oubre Jr. was darn good.

  • Averaged career highs almost all across the board with 18.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game in 34.5 minutes.
  • Shot 45% from the field, 35% from distance and 78% on free throws — all career highs.
  • Showed that he could be an effective outside shooter, converting 38% – on over six attempts – of his three-point looks in the final 10 games of his stint with Phoenix.

As it stands, it’s obvious that Oubre Jr. needs to time develop with a specific team before he begins to feel comfortable. That much makes sense considering it happened in Phoenix and is currently happening with Golden State. If the Warriors are willing to take the time to develop Oubre Jr., he should turn out to be a valuable piece for the team moving forward.

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Why the Golden State Warriors should let Oubre Jr. walk

On the flip side, the Warriors could opt to let Oubre Jr. walk for two reasons. That includes the above-mentioned inconsistency and his contract situation. Oubre Jr. is on the final year of a two-year, $30 million contract he signed with Phoenix back in 2019. Not only that, but Oubre Jr.’s addition caused the Warriors’ finances to skyrocket. Per NBA salary cap guru Bobby Marks, the Warriors had to pay $134 million as a whole. His $14.4 million contract plus $68 million in taxes added on top of the Warriors’ $66 million tax bill led to that $134 million number.

That said, even though he has not performed up to standard that Warriors fans have expected, it’s entirely possible for Oubre Jr. to demand a contract that could see him make around $20 million annually, similar to what the Los Angeles Lakers’ Dennis Schroder was offered. Although both players average similar scoring numbers, the difference between Schroder and Oubre Jr. is that the former is playing on a championship contender while the latter is playing for a fringe playoff team at present.

It also makes sense if the Warriors want to cut their losses in the offseason because of Oubre Jr.’s impending free agency and lack of consistency for a team with championship aspirations. Additionally, with Thompson coming back from a torn Achilles, it remains to be seen how he will fair after more than two years away from basketball. Considering his history, the Warriors will be happy to have Thompson in any capacity.

The bottom line: the Warriors should re-sign Oubre Jr. on a team-friendly deal

Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors
May 8, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrates with guard Klay Thompson (11) against the Houston Rockets during the fourth quarter in game five of the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Taking everything into account, the Warriors’ best bet should be to re-sign Oubre Jr. to a team-friendly deal, somewhere in the ballpark of a two-to-four year deal, worth anywhere from $30-60 million with team options. This route would make sense since it’s clear the Warriors see something in Oubre Jr. as they declined trade packages for him at the trade deadline.

However if he doesn’t pan out, the team-friendly deal should allow the Warriors to get out of the contract fairly easily, as they can pursue deals and match salaries with ease. They could opt to revisit other trades that were presented to them before opting to keep Oubre at the NBA trade deadline.

Ultimately, it all depends on how Thompson recovers from his Achilles tear. With Thompson coming off the bench being the most reasonable choice in easing him back into game action and as a way to prolong his career, having Oubre Jr. there as a backup or spot starter is a solid choice. For now, the Warriors need to focus on playing well as they could miss the playoffs entirely.