Stepping up: Oubre's role in Sixers' post-Harden era

Kelly Oubre returned to the Sixers starting lineup on Wednesday after an 11-game absence due to broken ribs. In 19 minutes of action, Oubre contributed 12 points, 3 rebounds, and an assist in a 131-126 win over the Washington Wizards.
Toronto Raptors v Philadelphia 76ers
Toronto Raptors v Philadelphia 76ers / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

Oubre was a pleasant surprise to begin the 2023-2024 season, averaging 16.3 points per game to go along with 5.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals in eight games (including five starts). However, Oubre was soon sidelined due to broken ribs in a car accident that took place in Philadelphia in early November.  To say the Sixers struggled in Oubre’s absence is an understatement. Philadelphia posted a 5-6 record over the last three weeks of action, falling from second place in the East to fourth. The Sixers have felt his absence on both ends of the court, with their steals per game, rebounds, and field goal percentage taking a dip throughout the last 11 games. 

With James Harden out of Philadelphia, Oubre has risen to the occasion as a spot starter and his value on both ends of the court has been significant.

While Nic Batum and Robert Covington have played well in his absence, they are getting up there in age and are not reliable options in the long term. Still just 28 years old, Oubre has the opportunity to be a major contributor for the Sixers this season and beyond if the Sixers choose to renew his contract. He can give the Sixers starter minutes, as well as a boost off the bench with the second unit. His hustle combined with his athletic ability at both ends of the floor make the Sixers a better team each time they step on the floor. He showed in his return that he could have an impact right away as he hit several key shots to give the team the lead in the latter minutes of the game.

As Oubre continues to get healthy, there is no doubt that his impact will continue to grow. Outside of Joel Embiid, and Tyrese Maxey, the Sixers are lacking star power and it will be important for Oubre, along with Tobias Harris and DeAnthony Melton to play efficient basketball as a starting unit if the Sixers want to make a deep postseason run. The bench is deep with key contributors such as Pat Beverley, Nic Batum, Robert Covington, and Marcus Morris who all bring a needed veteran presence to this team and have the ability to knock down shots and play good defense on the other end of the court. There are rumblings that the Sixers will look to make a move for a third star, but with the roster as is Oubre needs to continue to be the player we saw the first few weeks of the season if the Sixers want to stay atop the Eastern Conference standings.

As far as his status with the team beyond this year, that remains a mystery.

With Tobias Harris and several other players coming off the books in July, the Sixers will have the cap space to keep Oubre while still pursuing several stars and role players in free agency. If he keeps up this play consistently on both ends of the court, resigning him (albeit at a higher price tag) will be a no-brainer for the Sixers.

With James Harden no longer in the picture, Oubre's role becomes even more crucial, and his performance will be instrumental in filling the star power gap alongside Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey.