Charlotte Hornets Lose Another Starter, Kelly Oubre Jr. Out 4-6 Weeks

Posted on: January 5, 2023, 09:04h. 

Last updated on: January 5, 2023, 10:28h.

The Charlotte Hornets are one of the unluckiest teams in the NBA this season because a third starter will miss significant time due to injuries. Shooting guard Kelly Oubre Jr. is sidelined for four to six weeks while recovering from a hand injury, which is another bad beat for the Hornets.

Kelly Oubre hand injury surgery charlotte hornets trade rumors
Kelly Oubre Jr., shooting guard from the Charlotte Hornets, is having his best season of his career, which made him an attractive trade candidate for the last place Hornets. (Image: USA Today Sports)

The Hornets are in the middle of a three-game losing streak. With a 10-29 record, the Hornets have the worst winning percentage in the NBA. They currently occupy last place in the Eastern Conference and are ranked #15 out of 15 teams.

The Hornets are in last place in the Southeast Division, and trail the first-place Miami Heat by 10 games. They’re +30000 long shots to win the division, according to a recent update by DraftKings.

FiveThirtyEight projected the Hornets have less than a 0.1% chance to qualify for the postseason. They’re also projected to finish the season with a 26-56 record, which puts them in the running for a top pick in the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery.

DraftKings posted a prop bet predicting which teams will participate in the Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament. The Hornets are one of the long shots on the board at +1800 odds to qualify for the Play-In Tournament.

The Hornets are one of six teams at the bottom of DraftKings’ NBA futures board, with absurd long shot odds to win the 2022-23 championship at +100000.

Tough-Guy Oubre Jr. Played Through Injury

There’s no shortage of tough guys in the NBA, and Oubre Jr. is one of them. Oubre Jr. suffered a ligament injury in his left hand during the first week of the season. Since it was an injury to his non-shooting hand, Oubre decided to play through the pain and postpone surgery until the off-season.

Even with a sore left hand, Oubre Jr. is having his best season as a pro. He averages a career-high 20.2 points and 5.1 rebounds per game this season. His 3-point shooting is down from last season at 30.8%, but he emerged as the Hornets’ second-best scorer behind LaMelo Ball.

The Hornets had a positive outlook at the start of the 2022-23 season. In the two previous seasons, they qualified for the Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament, but were eliminated and failed to secure the #8 seed. The Hornets rehired ex-coach Steve Clifford in an effort to shore up their defense and make strides to become a perennial playoff team.

The hand injury kept Oubre Jr. out of the starting lineup in three out of the last four games, where he was listed with a “left hand strain.” The Hornets and Oubre Jr. finally opted for the surgical route. He will undergo surgery today, and expected to return sometime in February.

Clifford will rely on backup guards James Bouknight (4.4 ppg) and Bryce McGowens (4.0 ppg) to fill in for Oubre.

Stung Hornets: Ball, Hayward, Smith, Oubre Jr.

The injury bug stung the Hornets early in the season. Oubre Jr. tore a ligament in his hand, and point guard LaMelo Ball sprained the same ankle twice. Forward Cody Martin appeared in only two games in October before he had knee surgery, and has yet to return.

Backup point guard Dennis Smith, Jr. looked great while subbing in for Ball, until he rolled his ankle and missed multiple games.

In November, starting small forward Gordon Hayward suffered a controversial shoulder injury. The Hornets said it was a contusion. But Hayward’s wife spilled the beans with a social media post. She said her husband suffered a fractured shoulder blade and tried to play with it despite the immense pain.

The Hornets are long shots to qualify for the postseason. They could be active at the trade deadline on Feb. 9. However, their top two trade-worthy assets — Oubre Jr. and Hayward — are both injured. Oubre Jr. has an expiring contract worth $12.6 million, which makes him an attractive candidate on the trade market.

The Lakers were mentioned in trade rumors involving Oubre Jr. But his hand injury could derail any deal. The Lakers are on the Western Conference Playoff bubble, and would like to improve their outside shooting. Oubre Jr. would be a perfect complimentary player for LeBron James and Anthony Davis. But  the Lakers are hesitant to spend any future draft capital on a banged-up player with an expiring contract.