The OKC Thunder entered Tuesday morning needing to trim their roster ahead of next week’s regular-season opener. Thunder fans thought that they had the roster crunch figured out with Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Victor Oladipo, Jack White, and Tre Mann firmly on the bubble.
While the Thunder and the league have until the end of the week to get within compliance, Sam Presti took the first step at solving the roster crunch on Tuesday afternoon. The Houston Rockets have sent Kevin Porter Jr and multiple second-round picks to Oklahoma City, who shipped out Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Victor Oladipo in this transaction.
The Thunder are going to waive Kevin Porter Jr as soon as the trade is made official through the League Office, and with this move, they picked up multiple second-round picks in a roster-clearing maneuver. This leaves just one standard contract player needing to be cut heading into the weekend.
What went wrong for Jeremiah Robinson-Earl with the OKC Thunder?
The Oklahoma City Thunder selected Jeremiah Robinson-Earl in the second round of the 2021 NBA Draft. The organization even traded up to grab the Villanova big man who had a mixed back of reviews coming out of college. However, the consensus on Robinson-Earl was that he would turn into a “pros-pro” having a long NBA career by just being fundamentally sound and playing a role, if nothing else.
In his rookie year, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl lived up to that assessment. While there was no supreme pop, the OKC Thunder saw a clear pathway for Robinson-Earl to be a rotational big man.
Averaging seven points, five rebounds, an assist, and shooting 35 percent from three, Robinson-Earl’s career was off to a promising start. Despite being an undersized five, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl played scrappy defense and had the ability to switch, fitting in with the team style of defense Mark Daigneault runs.
However, in the 2022 NBA Draft, the OKC Thunder selected Jaylin Williams out of Arkansas. A player remarkably similar to Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and, who outplayed the Villanova Wildcat by a wide margin a year ago. Williams’ selection made Robinson-Earl a redundant player on this Thunder roster.
Along with his role being replaced, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl was never the same player on either side of the floor after his early season ankle injury in Dallas during his Sophomore year. Since then, there has not even been flashes of his old self.
Now, he heads to Houston, where the Rockets are also a player over the limit, still having a cut to make before the end of the week. The 22-year-old will still get an opportunity in the NBA, rightfully so, but he has to capitalize.
The most significant change for Jeremiah Robinson-Earl will be his ability to hone in on his shooting ability; in the Modern NBA, he has to be able to space the floor better and cash in on open looks. One of the primary keys for Robinson-Earl will be to regain the athleticism that made him such a switchable defender in year one.
By all accounts, Robinson-Earl was a fantastic teammate and brought some leadership skills to the OKC Thunder, and hopefully, the Villanova product can get back on track with a change of scenery.