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Kelly Oubre Jr. shows flashes of 3-and-D potential in preseason

Late in free agency, Kelly Oubre Jr. signed to a one-year deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. Now, he’s showing flashes of potentially filling a desperate need for a 3-and-D player.

Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Kelly Oubre Jr. was brought into the Philadelphia 76ers late in free agency as a low-risk, high-reward option on just a one-year, veteran minimum deal. But the questions remained on whether or not he could really make a difference on this Sixers squad.

If Wednesday’s preseason game hosting Boston Celtics was any indication, the Sixers and head coach Nick Nurse may have actually found the 3-and-D player they desperately need.

In Philadelphia’s loss, Oubre shined off the bench with 18 points. The offensive production isn’t the biggest surprise, with Oubre having averaged 20.3 points for the Charlotte Hornets in the 2022-23 season. The biggest issue with Oubre offensively is simply inconsistency, especially from long range with a 33% career average from deep.

But he’s taking steps to work on that as well — and it’s paying off already.

“I saw [skills trainer] Drew Hanlen earlier,” Oubre explained after the game. “Honestly, he told me that my shoulders weren’t squared. I just made that adjustment and tried to shoot the easy ones and that’s the key.”

It seemingly worked. Kelly sank 4 of 6 from beyond the arc Wednesday night and was 6-for-8 overall.

Again, however, offensive production from Oubre is no shock to the Sixers, just ask teammate Tyrese Maxey. He talked postgame about Oubre’s offensive prowess and shouted out the efforts he’s making on the other end of the court for Philadelphia’s defense.

“He averaged 20 last year with Charlotte. So he shoots the ball well, he’s able to get to the cup, he’s cutting, he can do all those different things, and he can play off guys,” Maxey said. “Offensively, we have no worries. Defensively, with his length and his activity and just the way he defends guys. It’s hard to explain because when you’re out there, he’s just flying around, and then he’s just making plays. Getting his hands on deflections and get on the ball.

“It’s good to have him on our side instead of him being in Charlotte,” Maxey added.

Guarding this Boston Celtics team, even in the preseason, is no small task. Oubre himself was indeed flying around as Maxey said, with two blocks and two defensive boards, but was quick to credit the entire team on how he was able to do that in sync with his teammates to be in the right places at the right times.

“Part of it is trust and part is communication and extra efforts,” Oubre said. “Tonight we had to do extra extra extra efforts cause they move the ball so well. With a great team that can shoot you just gotta fly around. Matchups aren’t really what they are to start. Once you switch and the play breaks down it’s the next effort, it’s the next guy that has to fly and close out. It was a team effort for sure.

“We just have to continue to dial it in and I think we have the pieces to do so.”

Oubre, especially when “flying around,” can be out of control and sometimes even out of place on defense, and it’s something Nurse and the Sixers will look to rein in. If they can do that as well as have him continue to make adjustments to sure up his shooting, Oubre has the potential to be the 3-and-D shaped piece that was missing from the Sixers’ roster puzzle this offseason.

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