Warriors

Oubre's move to second unit pays off for him, Warriors

Warriors
Warriors' Kelly Oubre Jr.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr knew he didn't want to change his starting lineup against the Los Angeles Lakers.

 

Just 13 games into the season -- and only nine with Draymond Green and the Warriors' entire starting lineup -- Kerr believes it's too early to fully evaluate the strength of his starting time. Give him 20 games.

As for the rest of the rotation, Kerr was ready to tinker Monday.

The first change to the Warriors' rotation was in their 115-113 comeback win over the Lakers, as Kelly Oubre Jr. played more with the bench.

Starting the second quarter with that second unit, he played the majority of his minutes on the floor without Steph Curry, whom Oubre has struggled to play with at times. It allowed Oubre to play more freely, giving him space to work off the dribble and find his spots more easily.

Finishing with a season-high 23 points on 9-of-18 shooting, it was Oubre's best game of the young season. Against the Lakers, he was the player the Warriors thought they were getting when they traded for him during the offseason.

"Thinking about it over the last couple of days I decided to flip flop Kelly and Andrew [Wiggins] and the rotation to give Kelly a chance to play with a different group," Kerr said in a video conference with reporters. "In the early part of the season, he's gotten kind of lost, in that he's just standing in the corner and not a whole lot is happening for him. I thought playing him with the second unit would maybe activate him, get him more aggressive, get him more involved. And I thought he did a great job."

A career 32.9 percent 3-point shooter entering this season, Oubre's current 20.3 percent from distance is not what the Warriors expected from the guard.

Yet, Monday's game highlighted the ways Oubre can expand his offensive game and make a positive scoring impact while he works through his shooting slump. He attacked the basket, navigating his way through defenders and showing off the array of ways he can finish a basket.

Oubre's final stat line also featured four rebounds, two steals and two blocks in 37 minutes, not to mention the two times he forced the ball out of bounds off of Lakers players -- once, off of Marc Gasol and another off Dennis Schroeder.

"He was great on both sides of the ball," Draymond Green said. "Especially in that second half, he was great defensively. And the entire game, he was great offensively. He's really finding his confidence, he's finding his way on this team. He's knocking shots down now, which is huge, but he's also slashing in the lane more. It's been great for him."

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As the primary defender on LeBron James Oubre hounded him in the full-court, using his 7-foot-3 wingspan to contest shots and hold James to 6-of-16 shooting.

"He's been good for us," Kerr said. "He's been dogging the ball up and down the floor. He really plays with energy defensively, especially on the ball, and that's been one of the main things we've been looking for him with Klay [Thompson] out ... So, Kelly's already been good for us in a lot of ways.

"It's just that he struggled with the shot and everybody's locked in on his shooting percentage from three. But I think there's no question it's been bothering him. He's been frustrated and I know in the locker room right now he's feeling great, and he should. He played a hell of a game."

The could be the breakout game and pivotal moment the Warriors have been waiting for with Oubre. This performance is a confidence builder.

 

Not that Oubre was ever low on himself, but as Kerr said, he was frustrated. His intensity has been consistent all season, but against the Lakers, that materialized into a strong game. And that's what Oubre and the Warriors need moving forward.