On the same morning the Phoenix Suns signed college basketball legend Jimmer Fredette through the remainder of the season, a different bit of news punched them in the gut.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Kelly Oubre Jr. will miss the remainder of the season after having a minor procedure on his left thumb. Since the All-Star break, Oubre Jr. averaged 20.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 2.1 steals and 0.9 blocks since being inserted into the Suns’ starting lineup.
Phoenix F Kelly Oubre, Jr., will undergo minor procedure on his left thumb and miss rest of season, sources tell ESPN. Oubre's recovery will be 4-to-6 weeks. He heads into restricted free agency on best stretch of career: 20 PPG, 5.7 RPG since becoming starter post-All-Star break— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 21, 2019
Mikal Bridges and Josh Jackson will now carry the lion’s share of minutes at small forward as T.J. Warren remains out with his sore ankle, but this really is a big blow to the Suns’ chances of maintaining positive momentum they’ve had going since the end of last month.
Since the All-Star break, Oubre Jr. exceeded or matched career-highs across every category of the box score, including rewriting his best in points three times over a month-long stretch. The last game Oubre Jr. played this season was against New Orleans on March 16, when he logged 32 points to help the Suns pull off a miraculous victory in overtime.
The Suns’ newcomer on the wing helped change the season after he replaced the embarrassing effort that Trevor Ariza brought during the first few months of the regular season. Credit to Co-Interim GM James Jones for swindling Washington on Dec. 15, because that 1-for-1 swap looks foolish from the other side four months later.
Oubre Jr. also holds the best net rating of any player registering minutes alongside Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. In 436 minutes, the 3-man lineup of Oubre Jr., Booker and Ayton has a plus-2.3 net rating. Outside of Troy Daniels (+14.1 NetRtg in 61 minutes), no other player on the Suns has pulled off a positive in that category alongside their two main pillars this season.
Now, we sit back and wait three or so months until July 1. Once the clock strikes midnight on that date, expect some news to trickle out about Oubre Jr. as he will be restricted. The Suns’ wing who found himself in the Valley will be a hot commodity from teams looking to shell out some cash. If I had to guess, Oubre Jr. will likely fetch a contract anywhere from the $14-17 million per year range, which the Suns should match.
After the impact Oubre Jr. has made on this team not only on the court but inside the locker room, he’s reaching the point of must-re-sign, in my opinion.
“He’s that dog that we need,” Bridges said on ESPN radio less than an hour after the Suns stunned the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena earlier this month.