(Editor’s note: We are starting individual grades for all players from the 2021-22 Oklahoma City Thunder. To access other reviews as part of this ongoing series, click here.)
With the 2021-22 regular season now officially in the books, the Oklahoma City Thunder (24-58) finished their season with the fourth-best lottery odds. This means it is now time for individual player grades for all 26 players who suited up for the team this season during the 82 games. The grades will be determined by what the season expectations were for each player and how they lived up to them.
The eighth player in the installment is Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who completed his rookie season. Robinson-Earl only managed to play 49 games due to a foot fracture he suffered in February. But in his limited time, Robinson-Earl showed promise as a rotation piece.
7.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists on 41.4 percent shooting and 35.2 three-point percent shooting in 49 games.
Significant Advanced Statistics
League adjusted three-point rate: 128
Corner threes: 34.8 percent shooting
Catch & shoot threes: 35.8 percent on 3.3 attempts
Total rebound percentage: 13 percent
Screen assists: 2.0
Contested shots: 7.0
2022-23: $2 million
2023-24: $1.9 million
2024-25: $2 million on a team option
Robinson-Earl’s rookie season went about as well as someone could have realistically hoped for. Robinson-Earl was a fixture in the starting lineup as he started in 36 of the first 44 games he played in before being forced to miss time due to his broken foot. In those 36 starts. For a second-round rookie to start that many games — even if it’s for a tanking team with the youngest roster in the league — is an impressive feat and speaking volumes at the amount of trust Robinson-Earl gained with the coaching staff in such a limited amount of time.
It’s quite clear that Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault gained a lot of respect for Robinson-Earl, as he carried himself around like a pro and was self-aware of what his role and strengths/weaknesses are. Daigneault mentioned PJ Tucker several times when asked about a player comp, and if Robinson-Earl can develop a good outside shot, then that definitely is an achievable goal.
Robinson-Earl’s bread and butter needs to be his outside shooting if he is going to enjoy a long career in the league. Robinson-Earl has the defensive chomps to be a decent switch and chase defender despite his lack of size compared to other forwards and centers, but he needs to bring something on the other side of the court and avoid being one dimensional.
Robinson-Earl shot 35 percent from three on over three attempts, but when broken down even further, his outside shooting suffered as the season progress. In October, he shot 46.2 percent, in November, he shot 36 percent, in December, he shot 30.2 percent, in January, he shot 29.5 percent.
Even though it is a bit discouraging that Robinson-Earl’s three-point shooting slowly degraded, this can easily be explained away. For most players, three-point shooting carries the caveat of variation and inconsistencies. It’s rare for a player to be a great or awful three-point shooter for the entirety of the season; Usually, there are peaks and valleys that eventually even out to a decent percentage from outside in a season. Another explanation for the inconsistent shooting from Robinson-Earl is the fact that he is a rookie who played the most amount of games he’s ever had to in his professional life. Adjusting to an 82-game schedule is a real struggle for a lot of young players.
Either way, if Robinson-Earl can sustain his decent outside shooting, which looks like a realistic goal, then there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be able to carve out a PJ Tucker-esque career.
Considering he was the 32nd overall pick, I felt like Robinson-Earl’s rookie season went about as well as one could have realistically expected. The defensive value and outside shooting are definitely replicable skills for Robinson-Earl that he can sharpen throughout the summer.
My only real complaint about Robinson-Earl’s season doesn’t really have anything to do with him but more with the front office. I didn’t agree with the decision to bring Robinson-Earl back from a major injury like a foot fracture just to play five meaningless games that really do not matter in the grand scheme of things. The risk of potentially reaggravating his foot injury was not worth the reward of getting in some game reps. My fears were somewhat materialized when Robinson-Earl started to experience foot soreness quickly after his return. Fortunately, he was able to return from this and was able to finish out his rookie season clean on the other side of this decision.
But even with the benefit of hindsight, I still stand by my stance that it was needlessly playing with fire to let Robinson-Earl return from a foot fracture this season. I will admit that my stance is not a fully informed one as I’m sure the Thunder made the decision knowing fully well that the risk of reinjuring the foot was insignificant enough to let him play five games and finish his rookie season on the right foot (pun intended). Perhaps the Kevin Durant Jones fracture debacle scarred me when it comes to how foot fractures should be treated.
With that said, Robinson-Earl will have the entire summer to improve himself and make that next jump in his career. Hopefully for his sake, the foot fracture is behind him and he will have a clean bill of health to focus on improving his game instead of having to worry about his surgically-repaired foot. With the Thunder potentially adding four rookies for next season, it’s going to be a big summer for Robinson-Earl to show the team that he belongs on the team in the long haul.
Final Grade: B