Every basketball fan in northeast Ohio has been anxiously awaiting NBA free agency, hoping the Cleveland Cavaliers can find an answer at their starting small forward to maximize the team’s limitless potential. With free agency officially opening at 6 p.m. on June 30, that time is almost here.
With an All-NBA Second Team talent in Donovan Mitchell and a young All-NBA Defensive First Team unicorn in Evan Mobley alongside two other All-Stars, Cleveland has all the makings of a championship squad with the right depth chart.
At the 2023 trade deadline, Cavaliers President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman chose to remain silent and wait to see the team’s potential in the Playoffs. After a disappointing finish in the first round, the team’s current drawbacks will be the primary focus in Cleveland throughout the summer.
Though the Cavaliers opted not to make any deals in February, they were linked to a couple of talented wings across the league, such as Brooklyn’s Royce O’Neale.
As free agency nears, another rumored trade target will be an unrestricted free agent and is still reportedly in the Cavaliers’ sights according to Akron-native sportswriter Brian Windhorst.
In a recent interview with ESPN Cleveland, Windy stated that Cleveland has their eye on Kelly Oubre, Jr. of the Charlotte Hornets. The Cavaliers reportedly had interest in Oubre early this year but did not make the trade due to Oubre’s broken hand.
The Kent State alum Windhorst suggested that he believes Max Strus of Miami and Grant Williams of Boston are other fits within Cleveland’s system available this off-season, but the Cavaliers have not forgotten about what almost was quite yet.
How would Oubre fit on the Cavs?
Drafted 15th overall in the 2015 NBA Draft, Kelly Oubre, Jr. provides any team with a confident scorer and valuable defender. While Oubre might not be the league’s most prolific three-point shooter, only connecting on 31.9 percent of 3-point attempts per game last season, he is an honest threat behind the arc that keeps defenders honest.
His shooting can come and go, similar to Cavalier sixth man Caris Levert. When Oubre is on, he’s on. He will shoot you into a win, but he will also shoot you out of a game. Though he is a streaky scorer, Oubre would be an improvement for the Cavaliers at the wing position.
In a perfect outcome, the Cavaliers would find somebody within the top percentile of wing shooters to place in the starting five. Oubre is admittedly not that. Like all players, Kelly Oubre, Jr. is not without his flaws on the court. But, as the world saw in the Playoffs the Cavaliers lack one major ingredient.
Whether it is through his unique nicknames (e.g. Tsunami Papi) that he owns or his on-court swagger, Oubre has confidence that Cleveland needs.
And, Oubre knows how to play with great backcourts. Not only has Oubre played next to Stephen Curry, but he also makes the most of their presence. Last season, a majority of Oubre’s shots are assisted. The further away from the basket Oubre is, the more often he is assisted on the shot.
With 86.4 percent of his 205 shot attempts from between 25-29 feet coming off of an assist per NBA.com’s stats tracking, the Hornets wing proves himself as a steady catch-and-shoot option for Cleveland.
On defense, Kelly Oubre, Jr. averaged one steal per game and half a block. Similar to his offense, Oubre’s defense falls and rises. The former Kansas Jayhawk seemingly falls into mental slumps that can affect his overall impact.
Clearly, then, Oubre comes with plenty of pros as well as cons.
The cons of Kelly Oubre, Jr. might concern some onlookers, hoping instead that the Cavaliers chase Windy’s other suggestions in Max Strus and Grant Williams. However, any player Cleveland can sign on a Mid-Level Exception will have their own flaws. Max Strus, for all his talent on the floor, mightily struggled to consistently show up for the Heat in the NBA Finals. Williams has been a crucial piece for the Celtics’ recent success; yet, his inconsistency in tight competitions has led to plenty of criticism thrown toward the Boston wing.
All three of these players would be worthwhile talent in Cleveland, and it is on the coaching staff to minimize drawbacks of their roster to maximize potential. In Cleveland, a determined Oubre could unlock a new level to his game.
The value in signing Oubre, Jr. as a free agent is placing another threat on both ends of the court for Cleveland. Though Oubre can suffer from cold streaks, opponents cannot ignore his presence. By directly signing Oubre to the team, the Cavaliers still have the chance to bolster their roster through trades without surrendering their already shallow depth.
Windy’s comments are only that, comments. His prior connection to the team suggests that Cleveland will seriously consider meeting with the New Orleans native. The Cavaliers will have numerous paths to growth this off-season, but Oubre, Jr. may very well be a positive addition to the team.