Another new face in Buzz City this past season, sharp-shooting forward Kelly Oubre Jr. ripped off one of the most productive campaigns by a Charlotte reserve in franchise history.
Signed via free agency last August, Oubre averaged 15.0 points on 44.0% shooting – 34.5% from 3-point range – 4.0 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.0 steal in 76 appearances, 13 of which were starts. He also notched new career bests in both 2-point percentage (57.8%) and effective field-goal percentage (54.2%), helping him finish seventh overall in Sixth Man of the Year voting.
Additionally, Oubre drained a career-high 191 3-pointers, which was good for the 10th-highest total in team history and 20th-most overall in the NBA this year. His 156 3-pointers off the bench were fourth amongst all league reserves and also broke Dell Curry’s franchise record of 154 set during the 1994-95 NBA campaign.
“First and foremost, I’m blessed enough to be able to suit up for this team and this organization each and every night,” said Oubre during exit interviews. “Blessed enough to show up to work every day with a positive mindset. This is my second year in a row having to come to a new situation and pretty much find my footing from the gate. I’m prouder of myself than I was last year because last year was more media and pressure [in Golden State]. This year, it’s more so me just coming in here, gelling with these guys and trying to find my flow in the system.”
When Oubre was on this season, his shooting was as lethal as any player’s in the league. He shattered the franchise record for quarterly 3-pointers on Jan. 5 against Detroit when he put up eight in the fourth, matching the second most by any NBA player since the 1996-97 season. Then on Jan. 26 in Indiana, he tied the franchise record for 3-pointers in a game with 10, while notching new single-game Charlotte reserve marks for both 3-pointers and scoring (39 points).
At times though, Oubre struggled with his consistency, particularly right before the All-Star Break after a stint in Health and Safety Protocols and an ankle sprain sidelined him for six January games. But as one of the league’s more recognizable players, Oubre’s unique style, flair and showmanship meshed perfectly with the Hornets’ up-tempo, highlight-rich offense.
“I’m from New Orleans, so to be able to play for the Hornets is a blessing for me,” added Oubre. “Growing up, I was a New Orleans Hornets fan. So, now I get to play for the Hornets and it’s in North Carolina. There’s beautiful Southern hospitality. It’s an evolving city and a group of individuals here trying to find their identity. I just bring a little eccentric-ness to the situation. I would just like to make this Queen City the Queen City because the queen is the most powerful piece on the board. I think we have a lot of good things brewing in the city, for sure.”
Something else that struck Oubre was the overall tightness amongst the Hornets’ players this season, which was apparently evident even to somebody new to the franchise.
“I wasn’t on the team last year or the year before, but this year coming into this organization, there was more camaraderie,” he said. “We have to continuously build on that and it starts before the season. When I first signed with the team, I flew down to Miami to meet the guys. We’re all just like-minded individuals who love to be around each other. That’s the first step of any type of cohesive team. We have something good brewing here.”
Oubre is under contract for another season and should continue to be one of the league’s most explosive off-the-bench scorers. He’s now been on the losing side of two different teams in the Play-In Tournament the past two years and will certainly be using this season’s bittersweet finish as added fuel over the next several months.
“It’s the second year in a row we lost in the Play-In Game. That’s not acceptable,” he said. “This summer is about work, watching film, doing more than we were doing to become better basketball players. If you look at the season in the grand scheme of things, it’s a season of growth. Forty-three wins this year and unfortunately, we got the ten seed. In the past, that wouldn’t have been the case. We would have been in the playoffs and still competing. We just have to take that, use it as motivation for the summer and come back better.”