Warriors look to prove moving on from Kelly Oubre was right call

SAN FRANCISCO — In the words of one scout, “the Warriors machine is back and whirring.” He was quick to note one player’s absence: Kelly Oubre.

The Warriors face off against their former fling, who most basketball experts agree wasn’t a good fit in Golden State’s “read-and-react” system, for the first time Wednesday night, when they host the 5-3 Charlotte Hornets.

Taking a 5-1 record into the second of an eight-game homestand, the Warriors’ early returns on the offseason exchange are looking good. Their biggest moves in free agency — Otto Porter, Nemanja Bjelica and Andre Iguodala — have already paid dividends in those wins.

More so, coaches and teammates say they fit the profile of “high IQ” basketball players that tend to succeed alongside the freeform stylings of Stephen Curry and Draymond Green.

“We just added guys that know how to play and know how to move the ball,” coach Steve Kerr said. “It’s been really apparent from almost day one of camp just how well this team fits together.”

When you’ve got it, you’ve got it.

When you don’t, it’s even more obvious. And not everyone over the years has been able to gel as quickly as Porter and Bjelica have. Both players’ passing ability has drawn raves, and Porter’s 43.8% hit rate from distance is second on the team. While Bjelica’s shot has cooled off, both players know where they’re needed on the floor.

“I think over the course of time, guys make certain plays and you can kind of feel it,” Green said. “But when a guy doesn’t, you know right away. You know right away. It ain’t that hard to detect. You know right away. … I don’t think we’ve got any (who don’t fit) this year. We’ve had our fair share, that’s for sure.”

Owner Joe Lacob agreed, but also refused to name names.

“We had some problems last year with some players,” Lacob said on a recent NBC Sports Bay Area broadcast.

The Warriors acquired Oubre in a trade with Oklahoma City after the 2019-20 season, and the former first-round pick out of Kansas provided consistent offense while healthy. But his relationship with Golden State appeared acrimonious, and he commented after the season that he “want(ed) to continue to show all the things I’m capable of and not be put in a box.”

Bjelica has credited Golden State’s offensive system for his revival, while Porter pointed to the culture of the locker room.

“It’s a very unselfish group,” Porter said. “(We) hold each other accountable, and it starts with the head of the snake. Steph (Curry) has been an unbelievable leader, making sure everybody is acclimated.”

How do you find someone who fits the profile? There’s no metric that Kerr knows of better than good, old fashioned game film.

“Usually passing and cutting is a good barometer for whether a guy knows how to play. Does he move the ball on and does he make the cut at the right time when the defense shifts?” Kerr said. “If you see a guy on tape doing those things, there’s a pretty good sign he’s a high IQ player.”

Oubre’s smooth transition to Charlotte shouldn’t be overlooked. He signed a two-year, $24.6 million contract with his fourth team in seven seasons. He’s one of only two NBA players this year with multiple 20-point performances off the bench and started five other games.

His 14.5 points per game may look better on a stat sheet than Bjelica (5.8 ppg), Porter (6.3 ppg) or Iguodala (4.2 ppg), but the Warriors are thrilled with their contributions besides scoring.

They’ve helped the Warriors maintain their spots among the NBA’s elite in assists (28.7 per game; 2nd) and defensive efficiency (99.4 points allowed per 100 possessions; 4th).

“I think the vets who we added understand NBA defense,” Kerr said. “We had a top-five defense a year ago, and we added Andre to the mix, one of the best defenders in the league and somebody who knows our schemes and coverages and personnel. … I just think we have a good groove.”

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