OKC Thunder: Why Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is an NBA Draft steal

Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images /

As the dust settles following a busy NBA Draft night for teams like the OKC Thunder, it’s easy to remember the standouts. Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green were the first two prospects off the board, James Bouknight slipped to No. 11 and the San Antonio Spurs surprised many by selecting Josh Primo with the 12th overall pick.

Aside from these, the focus is, of course, on the first round. But as NBA fans have seen countless times throughout history, second-round prospects can be molded into valuable — sometimes even most valuable — players.

So as Jeremiah Robinson-Earl slipped into the second round, his value continued to rise. And the Thunder drafted the Villanova talent with the 32nd pick.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is the steal of the 2021 NBA Draft and the OKC Thunder should insert him into the rotation immediately.

The Thunder originally didn’t have the pick, but Oklahoma City pulled off another deal including draft capital. This time, Sam Presti, general manager of the Thunder, dealt the 34th and 36th overall picks to the New York Knicks for the 32nd selection.

A rather minor trade could prove far more beneficial if Robinson-Earl performs well at the NBA level. And given his intangibles and ability to impact both ends of the floor immediately, it seems reasonable to believe he will outplay his draft position.

Robinson-Earl is a 6-foot-9 power forward who came off his sophomore campaign at Villanova averaging a team-high 15.7 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. He also led the team in steals and blocks per game with 1.0 and 0.6, respectively. He was one of three players to win the Big East Player of the Year, joining teammate Collin Gillespie and Seton Hall’s Sandro Mamukelashvili.

Across 25 games, all of which he started, Robinson-Earl was efficient from the floor. He shot 49.7 percent overall and 57.4 percent on just 2-point attempts. He proves to be a pick-and-roll and a pick-and-pop threat as he does a good job driving to the rim and knocking down midrange jumpers. His 3-point shooting leaves plenty to be desired, though, as he finished the season shooting 28 percent.

But most notably on the offensive end is his ability to track the ball mid-air and get position around the rim. Robinson-Earl averaged 2.5 offensive boards last season, often finding easy buckets through putback layups or dunks. And if it wasn’t him scoring, he’ll make good passes to an open teammate.

The assist numbers don’t necessarily prove it as he averaged only 2.2 per game, but the 6-foot-9 forward is a smart passer — just don’t expect him to be dishing out assists left and right at the NBA level.

The concern with Robinson-Earl is his lack of length. Standing at 6’9″ and weighing 242 lbs, he may be too big to play small forward. But with his wingspan only three-quarters of an inch longer than his height, it may be difficult to play him as a center. It doesn’t give much flexibility for the Thunder’s coaching staff.

Nevertheless, Robinson-Earl is an incredibly sound defender with the ability to guard post players and perimeter players. He makes smart decisions, keeping his hands away from ball handlers to avoid committing fouls — hence his 2.3 per game average. Additionally, he confidently switches onto perimeter players and causes havoc with his bigger frame.

Robinson-Earl slightly resembles Brandon Clarke given his defensive prowess and lack of size and length. However, there are clear differences such as Robinson-Earl weighing roughly 30 lbs more at the time of the draft and their offensive games.

The OKC Thunder have no business winning games this year and given their stash of draft picks that seems to continue to grow, they’ll be able to feature Robinson-Earl early in the season. The 20-year-old turns 21 in November and should immediately make an impact, garnering consistent rotation minutes.

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