Should the Phoenix Suns bring Kelly Oubre Jr. back?

Phoenix Suns Kelly Oubre Jr., Devin Booker (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns Kelly Oubre Jr., Devin Booker (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /

After acquiring the forward last season via trade, Kelly Oubre Jr. made a sizable case that he deserves a spot on the Phoenix Suns’ roster. The question is: will he get it?

The short and sweet answer is yes. Kelly Oubre Jr. deserves to be on the Phoenix Suns’ roster this coming season after a fantastic 40 game stint in 2018-19.

The more detailed and convoluted answer on the other hand though, may be what Phoenix ultimately does in free agency.

But then again, it might be about time the Suns went for simple and sweet, rather than complicated.

Let’s start with what Oubre Jr. clearly brings to the team: offense.

In the 40 games with Phoenix last season, Oubre Jr. averaged a career-best 16.9 points per game on 53.3 percent shooting from the field. These were steep improvements from his time in Washington where he played 252 games over three and a half seasons, only averaging a little over 20 minutes a game.

And while Oubre Jr. only started 12 games for the Suns, he showed that the more he played the bigger impact on the game he could have. This might just be what Phoenix needs from the small forward position.

Last season Oubre Jr. joined a team with an overabundance of forwards, but managed to carve out some valuable playing time in the half season he was here. And although James Jones managed to ship off projected-starter T.J. Warren to Indiana, he then proceeded to draft North Carolina’s Cameron Johnson with the 11th overall pick so it’s not like depth at small forward became all that much less difficult to maneuver minutes through.

Cam’s acquisition doesn’t bode well for Oubre Jr. to say the least.

Entering his rookie season, Johnson will be the same age as Oubre Jr. (23) and is more of a spacer on the floor, which looks like what Phoenix wants around Devin Booker.

No, Johnson isn’t going to immediately surpass Oubre Jr. in the lineup if he’s brought back, but it’s a position that didn’t necessarily have to be addressed by the team as the Suns still have both Josh Jackson and Mikal Bridges on the roster.

There’s no question that Bridges will remain on the squad after a solid rookie season, but Jackson is another question mark Phoenix has this offseason. As a whole, Jackson has struggled with his shot in the pros (41.5% from the field) and has been viewed by many as a liability on offense.

Now add on the fact Jackson is 22-years-old and Bridges, like the others, is 23.

By trading Jackson, the Suns could free up around $7 million in cap space and end the project the team invested in with the 4th overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft.

But that move could also spark another Phoenix plan, where Oubre Jr. isn’t necessarily in the picture.

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That would be the team’s pursuit of current Brooklyn Nets guard D’Angelo Russell, who’s expected to be renounced by the team near the beginning of free agency.

Should he become an option for the Suns, the team could look to offer him a max-contract which would come out to around $109 million for four years. He would provide stability at the point guard position, while bringing in a dynamic offensive game to Phoenix.

It would also be a move to please budding superstar Devin Booker.

Zach Lowe recently wrote that Booker is lobbying the Suns to make a run at Russell to pair with him in the Phoenix backcourt. By acquiring Russell that would not only give Booker help on the perimeter, but also bring in a good friend of the guard.

If that happens, where does that put Kelly Oubre?

Most likely it would send Oubre Jr. out the door clearing up his $9.6 million cap hit for the 2019-20 season.

But does Russell outweigh the need of Oubre Jr. is what most people are wondering.

It all comes down to where Phoenix wants to address the upgrade in the starting lineup. As it stands the starters look like (T. Johnson-Booker-Jackson-Saric-Ayton), with Oubre Jr. most likely slotting in as the starting SF should he be brought back.

That would secure the Suns with both a solid starting five and depth off the bench, a commodity the team has lacked for the past decade. Oubre Jr. would be someone Phoenix could rely on as a double-digit scorer, while handling his own on the defensive side of the ball.

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Although it may seem like a head-scratcher to let Oubre Jr. walk, it will all come down to what the Suns want long-term and whether or not those plans include the forward. Hopefully the Suns can play in simple and make the right choice.