During last season and throughout the offseason, Kelly Oubre Jr. has been a player that has been linked to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Oubre was reportedly a possible trade target for Cleveland seemingly prior to a wrist injury sidelined him for an extended period, and he was rumored to be a free agency target to keep an eye on for the Cavaliers.
That could still be the case, too. Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (subscription required) mentioned Oubre, along with players such as Christian Wood and P.J. Washington as possible free agency targets still for Cleveland in a recent report.
It’s been somewhat surprising how Oubre is still unsigned at this point in free agency, given what he can provide for a team offensively. He could theoretically give the Cavaliers a considerable lift there as well.
Granted, Cleveland made their share of moves in free agency already, in bringing in Georges Niang, Max Strus via sign-and-trade, and Ty Jerome. The Cavaliers also re-signed Caris LeVert and acquired Damian Jones by way of trade from the Utah Jazz. Clearly, the Wine and Gold have been busy this offseason.
Still, Oubre continues to be linked to Cleveland, and with it seemingly a possibility that he could be a team-friendly signing at this juncture on a prove-it deal, he could be a quality signing in that scenario. As a potential signing, though, a big concern would have to do with his buy-in with this iteration of the Cavs.
True buy-in from Oubre as a possible Cavaliers signing might be unrealistic.
In Fedor’s report he mentioned how Oubre, even coming off a career season with 20.3 points per game for the Charlotte Hornets, would be in a bench role with Cleveland. That could seemingly be a point of contention at some point.
Fedor discussed how Oubre’s playing style would cause fit questions, too. Also, could Oubre mold his game back to being a quality perimeter stopper as well for stretches, as he was earlier in his career? Time would have to tell on that front with Cleveland.
All of that said, Oubre can fill it up as a scorer, and if he’s rolling, is difficult to contain. That’s where the interest for him is warranted. Oubre can definitely create his own offense, and for Cleveland, he could theoretically take some pressure off of their primary offensive options.
As we previously alluded to, he had 20.3 points per outing last season with Charlotte, had 15.0 points per game in 2021-22 with the Hornets and in 2020-21, averaged 15.4 points with the Golden State Warriors.
As Oubre has gotten more and more seasons under his belt, he’s had his share of production. He has demonstrated the capability to score in the mid-range, he can convert on drives with quickness and change-of-pace, he makes plays in transition and he can get hot from three.
However, with the Cavaliers, it might be unrealistic for Oubre to truly buy into being an energy bench contributor who’d feasibly have variance in his minutes, and while he can make plays in passing lanes with his athleticism, would Oubre be locked in defensively and play solid defense? At this stage, that’s another of those questions with him as a possible signing.
Oubre has the tools to be a nice defensive piece, and despite him being a bit undersized against some matchups at 6-foot-6, he does have a 7-foot-3 wingspan. That could come in handy, and in fairness to Oubre, he hasn’t played in situations where he’s had consistent defensive players around him, whereas he’d be in a better scenario for his stretches with the Cavaliers.
He had 1.4 steals per contest last season as well, which is nothing to sneeze at, but with Cleveland, him gambling at times with a slower-paced team would have to be an issue that’d have to be ironed out.
Overall, though, while he’s a talented player, it be might unrealistic to foresee Oubre being bought into a rotational, energy/role player outlook with a team like the Cavs, especially as a possible minimum signing. There’d be a number of others involved, and even if Oubre were to receive his share of time, efficiency would be a valid concern.
He shot 31.9 percent from three last season, and is a career 33.0 percent three-point shooter, on 4.7 attempts per contest. Furthermore, in the past three seasons, what does cloud his scoring splits to some degree is the aforementioned inefficiency.
Oubre has placed in the 30th, 49th and 34th percentiles in total points scored per 100 shot attempts, per Cleaning The Glass. And paired with that, he’s placed in the sixth, 15th and 20th percentiles in assist rate, according to Cleaning The Glass.
Oubre, who will be in his age-28 season in 2023-24, is a talented scorer, but him having buy-in with this iteration of the Cavaliers might be far-fetched. He made $12.6 million last season, and was one of his teams’ top options. He could end up getting a bigger payday later on, anyhow, or potentially end up having role dissatisfaction with the Cavs, whether or not they were to pursue a sign-and-trade for him.
As a result, for maybe their last roster move of the offseason, Cleveland might want to sign a top-notch defender such as Javonte Green, a player Fedor touched on as seemingly a dark horse target. Another alternative could be for the Cavs to convert Isaiah Mobley’s two-way deal to a standard one.