Kelly Oubre Jr’s Driving Ability at Center of His Offensive Impact for 76ers

Kelly Oubre Jr’s Driving Ability at Center of His Offensive Impact for 76ers Mar 10, 2024; New York, New York, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (9) drives to the basket against New York Knicks forwards Bojan Bogdanovic (44) and Precious Achiuwa (5) during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Kelly Oubre Jr. has been a productive player this season for the Philadelphia 76ers. He provides much needed scoring, athleticism and positive energy to the roster. While he has had his highs and lows this season, he stepped up his play in recent weeks to become one of the team’s best players.

Through 12 games in the month of March, Oubre is averaging 19.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals in 32.8 minutes per contest. His impressive production could not have come at a better time. With Joel Embiid out of the lineup recovering from a meniscus procedure, the Sixers desperately needed someone to step up and keep the offense afloat. Oubre was up to the task, doing all he can to help fill the void left from Embiid’s absence.

Oubre’s ability to drive the basket has been at the center of his more impactful play of late. He began the season relying too much on his inefficient outside shooting. As the calendar flipped to March, Oubre started leaning more on his driving ability. He is shooting 63.8% on shots at the rim in the month of March. The 28-year old is having success using his athleticism to get to the rim, where he is able to finish through a combination of floaters, layups and dunks. The clips compiled below show the multiple different ways Oubre has scored from around the rim over the last couple weeks:

Oubre is having one of the worst 3-point shooting seasons of his career. He is knocking down just 30.1% of his attempts from long distance. However, his success driving the basket is helping him overcome his outside shooting woes.

While Oubre is scoring with a high efficiency at the rim, he is also taking strides as a playmaker. Opposing defenses are starting to key in on Oubre when he drives into the paint, throwing an extra defender at him. He is taking advantage of the extra attention by finding his teammates for open shots through either kicking the ball out to the perimeter or being patient and finding someone open around the rim.

Head coach Nick Nurse has been pushing Oubre to further utilize his driving ability, either for scores or playmaking for others.

“Just encouraging him to continue to attack,” Nurse said after a Sixers win over the Heat earlier in March, via Tom West of Liberty Ballers. “He’s got a great first step, man. It’s hard for a single defender to keep him in front. And then you kind of tell him, ‘These guys watch film, right? So if you’re going to beat everybody all the time, they’ve got to send people. And they’re sending a lot of people now, so you’ve got to make the next move.”

Oubre is taking the encouragement and running with it. He is averaging 2.7 assists per game thus far in the month of March. While that might not seem like a lot, he came into the month dishing out only 1.1 assists per game. The results have been even more profound in the last handful of games. Over his previous four games, Oubre’s assist numbers have jumped to 4.0 per contest. He is coming off recording a season-high six assists in the win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.

For Oubre, scoring at the rim has always been a key piece of his arsenal. However, he attributed his recent improved playmaking on drives to Nurse.

“It’s been like nine years in the making for me making plays at the rim,” Oubre said after a recent loss to the Phoenix Suns, via Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “But Coach Nurse has really brought it out of me. Just attacking, man, and realizing the force and the energy that I attract whenever I do, so somebody’s going to be open. I’ve got to find guys and be a playmaker, and I’m happy to do so.”

Oubre has gone through some adversity this season. He missed 11 games earlier in the campaign due to a fractured rib he suffered after being hit by a car. In addition to that freak injury, his role on the Sixers has changed multiple times throughout the season. He spent time both in the starting lineup and coming off the bench. Regardless of the role, Oubre brought his versatile skillset and a great attitude to the court.

The nine-year veteran is far from a perfect player. He takes some ill-advised shots from time to time. His defense, while being a bit better in recent weeks, is still spotty at best. However, the positives he provides far outweigh his flaws, especially when considering he is playing on a veteran minimum contract. If Oubre can sustain his recent production upon Embiid’s eventual return, he will be one of the Sixers’ most important rotation players come postseason time.

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