If 2021 has taught us anything, it’s that Klay Thompson is difficult to replace.
Sure, superstar Stephen Curry is still shooting the lights out without his back-court bro, seemingly on his way to MVP consideration. But the Warriors’ record sits at a mediocre 14-12 before a prime-time matchup with the Nets on Saturday night.
Golden State has struggled to find stability, in part, due to the unpredictable play of Thompson’s last-second replacement, Kelly Oubre Jr. His season has been a roller-coaster ride, starting at an extreme low to start the season, when he could barely buy a bucket from 3-point land.
That rough start led to an evident loss of confidence on the court from Oubre. But his talent, along with encouragement from coach Steve Kerr and staff, helped him slowly work out of his funk, mostly with bursts of brilliance followed by more head-scratching play, however.
But in the two games leading up to Saturday’s game against the Nets, Oubre mellowed out a bit and did something he had yet to do this season: record a double-double. Here’s the info from NBC Sports’ Drew Shiller.
Oubre had 12 points and 10 rebounds against the Spurs, followed by a 17-point, 10-rebound performance against the Magic.
These quiet, even-keel performances were vital to two Golden State victories. The Warriors are in dire need of rebounding, with centers Kevon Looney and James Wiseman still out with injury.
Oubre, at 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, picked up the slack. He’ll need to do the same on Saturday if the Warriors are to beat the Nets. He should keep looking to Curry on offense, too. He’s learning that the Warriors’ world revolves around their point guard, especially with Thompson out.
That takes some pressure off Oubre as well, allowing him to get off the roller coaster and turn in solid performances as he has for the last two games. His play is just one of the many interesting aspects of Saturday night’s big game. Can Oubre stay solid and even out moving forward? The answer to that question could have major implications, and we’ll get a clue when he faces the Nets.
(Photo credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)