Will Warriors’ Small-Ball Lineups Keep Kelly Oubre Surging?

Kelly Oubre, Warriors

Getty Kelly Oubre, Warriors

In his short time with the Warriors, there is no doubt that NBA vet Kelly Oubre has been much-maligned. He came out of the gate in his Golden State career with five brutal games, averaging 8.2 points on 27.4% shooting, which included—ahem—a measly 4.0% from the 3-point line. That’s right: four.

The stretch of 11 games that followed was an improvement, but only because the bar had been set so low already. Oubre, one of the replacements brought in for injured Klay Thompson, averaged 13.0 points on 38.8% shooting and 27.1% 3-point shooting. Within a month of his tenure, Oubre trade rumors abounded.

But he has been on a five-game run now in which Oubre has been, overall, halfway decent (18.0 points, 52.0% shooting, 46.7% 3-point shooting).

And he had a blow-up game on Thursday against the Mavericks, in which he scored a career-high 40 points, shot 14-for-21 from the field and 7-for-10 from the 3-point line.

“Obviously for Kelly, it’s been a rough first quarter of the season,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “And yet within that span, he’s had some excellent games for us. He’s played very well at times; he’s just had some really poor shooting nights during that span that people have locked in on, but Kelly’s getting more comfortable.

“Guys in the locker room love him and want to help him continue to get comfortable, and this was obviously a great night for him and for the whole group.”


Small Lineups Seemed to Boost Oubre’s Performance

The key for Oubre and the Warriors may have been the fact that the team was without any real centers, with James Wiseman (wrist), Kevon Looney (ankle) and Eric Paschall (knee) sidelined. That forced the Warriors to play a small-ball, up-tempo style that seemed to benefit Oubre and open up the offense as a whole—the team scored 147 points.

The Warriors played no one taller than 6-foot-7 during the game.

Oubre had struggled late in the Warriors’ loss to Boston on Tuesday, and was pulled in the fourth quarter in favor of reserve guard Brad Wannamaker. He showed far more confidence on Thursday.

“It’s honestly been a great learning experience for me,” Oubre said during a postgame TV spot. “I take it back to me being a freshman in college again because it was more of a psychological change. I had the tools to take it to the next step, but mentally I had to slow myself and wrap everything [together] and find my flow. So I’m finding that gradually — so I’m really happy to play with a great player in Steph so that we can continue to push this mode forward.”


Will Steve Kerr Stick With Small-Ball?

Just how far Kerr is willing to push this mode is an open question. Playing small clearly helped the offense, but it also helped that the Warriors were playing the Mavericks, who rank 25th in defensive rating in the NBA.

Steve Kerr "excited" POSTGAME REACTION after Warriors crush Mavericks 147-116, Stephen Curry: 28 PtsSteve Kerr "excited" POSTGAME REACTION after Warriors crush Mavericks 147-116, Stephen Curry: 28 Pts2021-02-05T03:38:29Z

Still Golden State will at least be without Wiseman for another week, when his wrist will be re-evaluated. Looney’s ankle will take at least another two weeks, when it will be re-evaluated. That will give the Dubs more time to see what the small-ball lineup can do.

The Warriors have Dallas on Saturday, followed by two games in San Antonio, which has the 17th-ranked defense. That should mean more small-ball and, perhaps, more of Oubre on the rise.