On the surface, Kelly Oubre Jr. looks like a rental — a heavily-taxed one-year option to fill the hole left by Klay Thompson and maximize the Golden State Warriors chances of competing in the 2020-21 NBA season.
But he’s hoping it’s more than that.
Oubre has yet to don a Dubs jersey, and he’s already singing the praises of the organization, and noting how nice it is to be somewhere successful and functional. He’s only known NBA life on the Washington Wizards and Phoenix Suns, and neither team is a beacon of success or functionalism.
In an interview with 95.7 The Game, Oubre hit on that, saying that he’s happy to play for “somebody who actually cares about the organization.”
Oubre pretty candid with his answer when asked on @957thegame how it feels to play for an owner like Joe Lacob after playing under Sarver's Suns and the Wizards before that. pic.twitter.com/F9fzyqkMX3— r/Warriors (@GSWReddit) November 23, 2020
This will be Oubre’s sixth professional season, and his third team — or his fourth, if you want to include the Oklahoma City Thunder, who traded for the wing a week ago only to flip him to the Warriors. And while his contract will expire at the end of the season, Oubre is finally in a functional and competitive organization, and he sounds ready to unpack.
On a conference call with reporters, Oubre said he could see himself calling the Bay Area home, though he understands that it’s a business, and it’s not always that easy.
Kelly Oubre, who's on an expiring deal, on having a potential long-term future in the Warriors: "I'm optimistic. I definitely see myself being able to fit in and make this place a home."— Connor Letourneau (@Con_Chron) November 23, 2020
Oubre said he sees himself fitting in and making Golden State home, but "at the end of the day, it's a business."— Wes Goldberg (@wcgoldberg) November 23, 2020
"It's a great opportunity for me to come in with some great players and fit right alongside with them."
There’s little doubt that Oubre is a tremendous long-term fit with the Warriors. On a healthy Dubs squad, he would make for a dynamic and versatile sixth man. Or he could easily slide into a role as the starting small forward if Andrew Wiggins were to be traded.
The only potential issue is the money. Oubre is owed $14.4 million this year, and that figure would cost the Warriors more than $60 million in taxes if the league were to hit its revenue goals (they won’t, but that’s a decent barometer for future seasons). He’ll play a large role with a competent Warriors team, which will likely boost his value around the league, and he’ll enter free agency next offseason at just 25 years old.
In other words, he’ll likely command a pretty penny, and that pretty penny is essentially quadrupled for a Warriors team that already owes more than $139 million to Thompson, Wiggins, Steph Curry, and Draymond Green next year.
By being willing to take the huge tax hit to trade for Oubre this year — even with Thompson out for the season with a torn Achilles — Joe Lacob is making it clear that he will continue to shell out the big bucks if it’s productive. One would assume that he’ll be willing to spend that money again next year, when the Warriors will presumably have a better chance at contending, with a healthy Thompson, a more developed James Wiseman, and a full year in the system under the belt of Wiggins.
So Golden State shelling out money to keep Oubre wouldn’t be shocking, even if it would result in a historic tax payout. The Warriors obtained Oubre’s Bird rights in the trade, meaning that even though they’re way over the salary cap and can only offer minimum contracts and exceptions to free agents outside of the organization, they can extend any offer to Oubre in free agency, all the way up to a maximum contract.
We’re a long ways from there. How Oubre plays, how he fits in with the team, and how good (or bad) the Warriors are will all go a long way towards determining if his future is in San Francisco.
But he wants it to be, and that’s a great start.