Kelly Oubre made the second half of last season a lot more fun than the first half for Phoenix Suns fans. But that does not mean that he should be a primary offseason focus.
Do not cry for him, Phoenix Suns fans, if he does not return – he being Kelly Oubre Jr.
If the offseason comes and goes and Kelly Oubre is no longer on the roster, his departure would not be a make or break loss for the franchise desperate to become relevant again.
Oubre has recently received some positive press on Twitter from Adrian Wojnorowski as well as from Kellan Olson of Arizona Sports.
Woj noted that Oubre will receive considerable interest from teams this summer, while Kellan wrote about the positive impact that Oubre had on the roster last season, in particular while playing side-by-side with Devin Booker.
While I cannot argue with Woj’s expectation of Oubre’s league-wide interest, and any positive play with Booker is something to be interested in, allow me to reference a particular stat: the Phoenix Suns were 10-30 in games that Kelly played in 2018-19, and 9-33 when he didn’t (including games prior to his arrival in December).
As positive of an impact that he made on the court (and there is no denying that there was an impact), he did not make the Suns good enough to the point that he should in any way become a primary focus in offseason maneuvering this summer.
To put it simply: if this offseason’s wheelings and dealings in trade and free agency are akin to an ice cream sunday, then Kelly Oubre should be no more than the cherry on top.
If you love such a dessert, you will agree that while the ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate, and nuts are in and of itself a very good dessert, the post-meal banquet is just not complete without the cherry.
Yet do not be fooled: the cherry itself does not make an ice cream sunday, and can only be called as such with all of the other preceding components already in place.
If the Suns enter this coming regular season with Oubre on the roster, there will certainly be plenty of positivity surrounding his continued placement on the team.
The #ValleyBoyz would not be the same without him.
Oubre is young (23-years-old), exciting, and undoubtedly a good and still developing player.
But let’s say that James Jones only adds minor pieces to a team that won a meager 19 games last season (pick the point guard and/or power forward of your choice not named D’Angelo Russell, Malcolm Brogdon, Ricky Rubio, Tobias Harris, or Julius Randle) and then re-signs Oubre as well.
I hate to say it, but do not expect a leap in record of any kind in 2019-20.
It won’t be an all-out tank again, but it certainly won’t be that much fun overall.
In fact, it is probably safe to assume that most Suns fans would actually call the offseason a failure, especially in light of the improvements Utah, Dallas, and the Los Angeles Lakers have already made, as well as if what is predicted could go down in (Dallas and Los Angeles again), San Francisco, Sacramento, and for others in the West, does.
However, if Jones is able to land a top-flight point guard (via free agency or trade), a decent backup power forward who will at least grab some rebounds and complete an outlet pass or two each game, and then “oh by the way, we re-signed Oubre who we stumbled upon last season and who was not an initial trade target,” things will have gone really well.
Raja Bell himself did not make the Phoenix Suns a great team. In fact, he wasn’t even here when the greatness began as he came as a bargain replacement to Quentin Richardson (Bell’s contract averaged $4.75 million over the following five seasons while Q earned an average $8,121,780 over that same span of time).
Oubre is Raja Bell-esque in that they share similar intangibles: both are fun and exciting on either end of the floor; both are solid defensively; Bell could drain a desperately needed 3 with several players on him, while Oubre can bust out for 20 and 10 on any given night when the defensive focus is on Booker and Deandre Ayton.
Yet do not fool yourselves into thinking they were in some way greater than the whole: it was no day of tears when Bell was traded (with Boris Diaw and Sean Singletary for Jared Dudley, Jason Richardson and a future second – Gani Lawal; Bell was shooting a mind-blowing 46.8% from beyond the arc when he was traded), and if even this coming season the Suns happened to move a re-signed Oubre and finally acquired the point guard we have all been opining for, as fans we’ll get on just as fine.
Remember too, the Washington Wizards had Oubre gone in both proposed trades (he was initially aligned to go to the Memphis Grizzlies) even though they had Oubre’s Bird Right’s – which Suns currently retain.
More from Valley of the Suns
Bird Rights are particularly special because it allows a team to go over the cap to re-sign one of their own.
The Wizards were then as they are now over the cap, yet could have retained Oubre as a primary piece of the future, which for a dynamic and fun wing player would have presumably been perfect for them as they figure out what to do with Bradley Beal and John Wall.
Of course none of this is to say that Oubre is either overrated or a poor influence in the locker room. He was great fun to watch last season and seems like one of the more high class guys in the organization.
But Oubre does not make the Phoenix Suns a great team. Heck, he didn’t even make them a good team last season.
Oubre is the kind of player that good teams acquire to become great (or at least better) and great teams add to hopefully put them over the top.
I made a similar argument with T.J. Warren for the past couple of seasons – I loved Warren’s game, but he was best suited to be a sixth man on a really good team who when playing with the second unit allowed his team to never take their proverbial foot off the pedal.
If Jones is somehow able to add D’Angelo Russell, a decent backup power forward, and then re-signed Oubre, well, now we’re talking.
But, if management trudges through the offseason, potentially overpaying a little bit to keep a fan favorite on an overall underwhelming roster, and does not add the kind of potentially transformative talent that the roster so desperately needs, the Suns will not much better than they were last season.
In fact, they will be a bit more cash strapped when they search for the next star to place next to Booker and Ayton in the summer of 2020 (which needless to say – do not put any eggs in that basket).
Keep a close eye on all the major free agency moves and pray that the James Jones places the Phoenix Suns squarely at the heart of two or three positive Woj Bombs.
Hope that Kelly Oubre is retained, but do not hope that he is their primary addition/retention this summer. However, if he is, expect that next season will be another helping of the same old melted ice cream sunday the franchise has been force feeding fans for the past few years.