Billed as one of the most versatile members of the 2021 NBA Draft class, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl impressed during the Oklahoma City Thunder’s stay in Las Vegas.
OKC’s Summer League MVP, Robinson-Earl led the team in scoring while also doing his part on the defensive end of the floor, despite being a bit undersized for an NBA center.
Though he just appeared in five games, Robinson-Earl’s basketball intelligence was on full display, as he smartly positioned himself to clean the offensive glass while also thinking his way through the game on defense as teams attacked the paint relentlessly against the Thunder.
Touting his work ethic instilled in him at Villanova, Robinson-Earl is primed to overcome perceived physical limitations to be a nice piece for Oklahoma City off the bench.
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The NBA draft process is long and winding, and produces plenty of player comparisons. For Robinson-Earl’s money, he was compared to guys from Patrick Patterson to David West and Grant Williams.
The Patterson comparison isn’t bad for the role the Thunder will likely ask Robinson-Earl to play.
Robinson-Earl flashed the ability to step out and stretch the floor on the offensive end, knocking down 33.3 percent of his 3-pointers per game. Patterson is a career 36.9 percent shooter from deep, doing just enough to earn the “stretch 4” moniker.
And while Patterson underperformed expectations during his own stint for the Thunder, if Robinson-Earl could match Patterson’s low of 3.6 points per game for OKC, while also adding more than Patterson’s 2.3 rebounds per game in a bit part role off the bench, he will have been a fantastic use of the No. 32-overall draft pick.
Patterson is a more explosive athlete than Robinson-Earl, so his ability to crash the boards and play above the rim as Patterson did early in his career likely won’t reach the same levels as Robinson-Earl. But again, Robinson-Earl’s ability to read the game defensively tracks well beyond his years, and will be a great asset to the Thunder bench unit which struggled mightily to defend a year ago.
No matter how Robinson-Earl adjusts to the NBA, he should be given plenty of opportunity over the 2021-22 season to develop and carve out a role for himself.
The Thunder are projected as having the lowest win total in the NBA just a year after they aggressively chased a top five pick in the lottery during the home stretch of the 2020-21 season. Oklahoma City may be the lowest pressure environment for a rookie to step in and begin to develop in the NBA at this point while Sam Presti continues to collect assets to surround Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with a core that can compete in the years to come.
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