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Relax — the Kelly Oubre, Jr. signing is fine

The Sixers are expected to sign Kelly Oubre, Jr. At the veteran minimum, he’s a fine addition to their mix on the wing.

Indiana Pacers v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

At this point, you have to consider the Sixers’ roster mostly set for the season opener in Milwaukee on Oct. 26.

Sure, things can change. Maybe a James Harden deal finally gets done. Maybe a random player gets waived — like we saw with Cameron Payne and the Spurs recently — that piques the Sixers’ interest.

But what’s more likely is you’re looking at your opening night roster against the Bucks.

(I’ll give you a moment to take in the excitement)

That includes the impending acquisition of veteran wing Kelly Oubre, Jr. While many on Sixers Twitter worked themselves into a lather over the news, signing a player like Oubre at the veteran minimum is a fine addition to the team’s wing mix.

While there’s admittedly more doom than gloom this season for the Sixers, there are damn good players on the roster. You have the reigning MVP in Joel Embiid and one of the NBA’s most charismatic rising stars in Tyrese Maxey. De’Anthony Melton returns after a strong first season in Philly. Paul Reed is back with a new contract — and it appears a new role under Nick Nurse.

After that, there are a whole bunch of questions marks.

Tobias Harris and P.J. Tucker are the returning starters at forward — which one you’d like to call the three or the four is up to you. After that the only true bench wings are Oubre, Danuel House, Jr., Furkan Korkmaz and Danny Green. That’s quite the Island of Misfit Toys.

But out of that group, Oubre is easily the most talented and has the best balance of youth and NBA resume. Let’s call out the biggest flaw first: efficiency. Oubre’s true shooting numbers have fluctuated wildly throughout his NBA career. If you’re looking for a reason for optimism, his true shooting numbers have been good every other year the last four seasons — it was 53.4 last season.

And while his turnover numbers are strong for a player with his usage rate, he’s averaged more turnovers (1.1) than assists (1.0) in his NBA career. To put it simply — if Oubre gets the ball, it’s likely going up.

That’s not necessarily the worst thing in the world. For folks who are tired of seeing Harris or Tucker or any other players hesitate with an open shot, there is no such fear with Oubre. A scorer off the bench that can create for himself to complement either Embiid or Maxey when the other is off the floor feels like a plus.

Oubre has failed to live up to his billing as a star Kansas recruit and lottery pick, but the traits that made him those things are still very much there. He’s 6-foot-7 with a ridiculous 7-3 wingspan. Pair that with his athleticism and that is an intriguing wing player.

His defensive potential is there. Effort has been an issue. But the thing to keep in mind is that Oubre is 27 and coming off a season where he averaged over 20 points a game ... and the best he could do was a minimum deal with the Sixers.

This is a clear career crossroads for Oubre and he’s taking a path we’ve seen several other players take. When you’re skilled but have bounced around the league and failed to help a contending team, your best bet is to prove you’re able to do so in hopes of a bigger contract down the road.

The most successful enacting of this strategy was likely done by Bobby Portis. Portis, a first-round pick of the Chicago Bulls in 2015, had obvious skill coming out of Arkansas. He also had a mean streak which manifested in some ugly behavior while in Chicago. Like Oubre, Portis had put up some solid numbers, but wasn’t a hot commodity after stints with the Washington Wizards and New York Knicks. When he signed with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2020, it was a bit of a surprise.

But to Portis’ credit, he carved out a role coming off the Bucks’ bench and became a huge part of Milwaukee’s title run during that season. Portis eventually parlayed that success into a four-year, $48.5 million contract with Milwaukee. Obviously, this is one of the bigger success stories, but the point being that this sort of thing isn’t unprecedented.

And Oubre and his agent, Torrel Harris, are assuredly aware of the fact that the Sixers will have money to spare next season. The team will possess Oubre’s Bird Rights and will have the best chance to re-sign him if things work out.

All of that is getting ahead of ourselves a tad. The bottom line is that signing a player with Oubre’s talent, in the prime of his career, at the veteran minimum, just weeks before camp is a good thing. There’s essentially no risk here — much like the signings of Patrick Beverley, Mo Bamba and Danny Green. If Oubre or anyone in that mix isn’t very good, you simply don’t have to play them and can let them walk in the offseason (or sooner).

The Harden situation is a disaster and looms over everything the Sixers do as we approach opening night.

But signing a player like Oubre is a savvy move with almost zero downside.

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