Forecasting Kelly Oubre’s future with the Charlotte Hornets

Kelly Oubre, Charlotte Hornets (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Kelly Oubre, Charlotte Hornets (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The Charlotte Hornets find themselves heading into the home stretch of their season in full-on rebuilding mode. They have virtually no hope of making the play-in tournament, and an uncertain future lies ahead for their remaining core players. All things considered, it has been a confusing and tumultuous season in Queen City.

One thing remains certain: LaMelo Ball holds the keys to this franchise. As the captain of the Hornets’ ship, their success hinges on him above anyone else. But one player can only carry a team so far, and the other members of Ball’s supporting cast must live up to their potential for this group to rise to contending status.

Among the most important role players around Ball is Kelly Oubre. One of the oldest players on the Hornets’ roster, Oubre was enjoying a career year as Charlotte’s second-leading scorer before being sidelined in late December with a hand injury. The team has struggled mightily in his absence. With the NBA trade deadline behind us, the question arises: Will Kelly Oubre be on the Hornets’ roster next year?

Kelly Oubre’s injury may have prevented the Hornets from trading him

Many had speculated early in the season that the Hornets would attempt to deal Oubre to a contending team at the trade deadline and gather assets in return. But his hand injury may have derailed those plans, with teams being understandably skeptical of bringing in a player whose health is in question.

And after seeing the moves Charlotte made at the deadline, it makes one wonder if they would have gotten much back for the eighth-year veteran after all. The Hornets dealt Mason Plumlee to the Los Angeles Clippers for a second-round pick and Reggie Jackson, who the team waived to clear up more cap space this offseason.

They also sent their talented young wing Jalen McDaniels to Philadelphia for a pair of second-round picks. It is clear that the Hornets are looking to start over and build from scratch. Shams Charania confirmed that the team intended to create more playing time for their younger players as the season winds down. With that being the case, signs are pointing to Kelly Oubre’s days in Charlotte being numbered.

The Hornets appear ready to move on from their veterans

As the Hornets are now bound for the NBA lottery, a player like Oubre would be better served going to a contender where his services would be more useful. If Charlotte is looking to free up minutes and shot attempts for their younger players like James Bouknight and Mark Williams, keeping a high-usage player like Kelly in the rotation would seem counterproductive.

Oubre is playing the 2022-23 season on an expiring contract, so Charlotte will have the option to sign him to a new contract this summer. But assuming they are committed to moving on from him, they would need to execute a sign-and-trade to avoid losing him for nothing in free agency. Since Oubre has garnered interest from multiple teams around the league in previous discussions, it does not seem they should have much trouble finding a trade partner in the offseason.

On the other hand, they could decide to simply buy out his contract before the current season is over if they determine the assets other teams offer will not be worth taking back. There is still a chance the Charlotte Hornets could decide to keep Kelly Oubre around as a foundational veteran next to LaMelo Ball, but their recent moves indicate he will likely be on his way out in short order.

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