Ever since the fallout of the Golden State Warriors’ miraculous title run, the team has been looking for a key player that might just help them rise back to glory. At the end of the 2019-20 season, many questions began to arise for the franchise. Many asked: “Is their dynasty over?,” “Are Steph and Klay still in their prime?” The Warriors had lost superstar Kevin Durant to the Brooklyn Nets in free agency and Andre Igoudala in a buyout deal, and their 2020-21 season was a bust with stars Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry out due to injury. Entering the 2020-21 season, the Warriors had to rebuild their team and assemble new pieces for a playoff run. Initially, the team was going into the season with their original lineup of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, but Thompson again went down with a season-ending injury. A need emerged for a new star to join the team — this is where Kelly Oubre Jr. comes into the picture.
After being drafted 15th overall in 2015, Oubre Jr. has electrified the league with nasty dunks and a pure attitude. Athleticism is what makes Oubre Jr. so lethal. He is always able to be in the paint for a boxout, jump high enough to block taller opponents, and get steals and easy points off of fastbreaks. With leaping ability and quickness, he should be unstoppable. But every player has their flaws. Ever since coming out of the University of Kansas, Oubre Jr. has not shot the basketball consistently. Oubre Jr has a career 32% three-point shooting percentage. Sure, he can come out and have one of those games where he will go 7-10 from the three-point line. But the next game he will go 0-5. This inconsistency is why Oubre Jr. has not become a star.
Since entering the league in 2015, Kelly Oubre Jr. has never really found a true home. After being drafted by the Atlanta Hawks, he was immediately traded to the Washington Wizards. His tenure on the Wizards only lasted three years before he was traded once again to the Phoenix Suns in 2018. After two years with the Phoenix Suns, the Golden State Warriors made the call to trade for Oubre Jr. because of the absence of Klay Thompson.
When you look at a championship basketball team, you see that every player understands their role which allows the team to run perfectly. A perfect example is the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green were the leaders and initiators of their offense. Andre Igoudala was the defensive Small Forward that could get you a stop and knock down shots when needed. Andrew Bogut was the big man and responsible for grabbing the rebounds and protecting the paint. Shaun Livingston was the perfect sixth man, who would check into the game knowing all he needed to do was give his team points, etc.
Every player on this team knew exactly what they needed to do to win games. You would never see Andrew Bogut taking the ball up or Andre Igoudala attempting to isolate with the ball because they knew it was not their place to do so.
Unlike other teams Oubre Jr. has played for, the Warriors game plan allows him to shine brighter than before. Starting at the Small Forward position, Oubre Jr. gives the Warriors great defensive stops, dunks, and the energy that is needed to help other teammates thrive. His competitiveness is his drive, which complements teammate Draymond Green’s energy and the soul he brings to the team. Because Oubre Jr. was brought in for Klay Thompson, you would think he would become a spot-up shooter and give the Warriors what they missed from Thompson. But, this was never the intention.
Oubre Jr.’s role is similar to what Andre Igoudala used to bring to the team. Oubre’s game is exactly like Igoudala’s in a way that suits the Warriors’ play style perfectly. Like Igoudala, Oubre Jr. knows when he checks into the game that he needs to hit his open shots and give them defensive stops, often guarding the best scorer on the other team. He also needs to help the offense move. His inconsistent shooting may improve, but if not, he has so much more to offer this team. Because the Warriors have the star power of two-time MVP Stephen Curry, there does not have to be another main scorer. There need to be role players and that is why Oubre Jr. is thriving so much with Golden State. He understands his role.
As a young player, Oubre Jr. is maturing and looking to make his mark on a winning team. The Warriors should have success this year as their players learn and understand how to play together and build chemistry. With Klay Thompson returning next year, the Warriors will have all of their pieces assembled. Oubre Jr. may just be the high energy, competitive spark they need to return to glory.