While everyone keeps both eyes trained on the upcoming 2021 NBA Draft lottery (June 22), we fans should also keep in mind that president Masai Ujiri has two second-round picks at his disposal that he could use to turn this Toronto Raptors draft into a franchise-changing event. One way to do this is nabbing Villanova star Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.
Ujiri has been able to find talent later in the draft in Malachi Flynn (29th), OG Anunoby (23rd), Pascal Siakam (27th), and Norman Powell (46th via the Bucks), not to mention the pearls he’s found outside the NBA Draft like Fred VanVleet and Chris Boucher.
That’s why we need to keep an eye on Robinson-Earl. This sophomore power forward doesn’t have a lot of wow factor going for him, but he is one of the most intelligent players in his draft class and is getting nowhere near the hype he deserves.
Robinson-Earl’s alma mater already has Raptors ties through former Wildcat Kyle Lowry, but JRE has more to offer the Raptors than just a shared college history.
Robinson-Earl’s standing in NBA mock drafts is one of the dirty little secrets about his potential as a pro. Projected as high as 26th by The Ringer, others like Tankathon and ESPN Big Board have him ranked more in the 45-55 range and as low as 69th. However, this variance has less to do with JRE’s weaknesses and more to do with how scouts value his strengths.
Toronto Raptors draft: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl Strengths
Robinson-Earl is a 6-9 forward weighing in at 230 pounds. He’s got a strong base, long arms, and the weight to play some small-ball five, but also the agility in the half-court to stay with more perimeter-oriented forwards.
The touch is his selling point scoring the ball. While his 3-point percentages in his two years at Villanova may seem wonky, know that it’s also a small sample size. Robinson-Earl does most of his scoring in face-up situations and from the mid-range.
He’s got an absolutely beautiful shooting stroke for a man his size. High release point, nice followthrough, the mechanics are on-point.
The key will be stretching him out from the mid-range to 3-point territory. He’s already shown he can create from mid-range, but as a lower-ranked prospect entering the NBA, we should expect him to have more catch-and-shoot opportunities rather than having to create for himself.
The shooting will keep him in the league, but it’s his feel for the game that will carry him to success. It’s a hard thing to quantify. There are no stats that fully define a player’s basketball mind, but that’s what makes it so special.
That’s why Robinson-Earl is such a valuable draft prospect, and that’s why he fits so well with the Raptors. His off-ball play, the way he positions himself to give space for his guards, his patience finishing around the rim, his moves in the lane, this is the kind of stuff that makes a long NBA career.
Toronto Raptors Draft: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl Weaknesses
Robinson-Earl’s biggest weakness is his lack of superstar potential. He’s a decent physical athlete, but not ridiculous. He’s a little undersized, he’s not that fast, he’s not a high flyer or punishing bruiser.
Scouts might start to wonder what avenue he has left for improvement. The 3-point% could get better, but to what degree? Is he going to be taking pull-ups? Shooting above 40%? Probably not.
He’s on track to be a great role player, but that’s not what GMs typically look for in a rookie prospect. That’s why some mock boards have him falling out of the first round. Not because he’s any worse than his peers, but because he’s less attractive to teams looking for a diamond in the rough.
How would Jeremiah Robinson-Earl fit on the Toronto Raptors?
He’d help with the rebounding. Despite the injection of Khem Birch, the Raptors still have issues with frontcourt depth. The key to the championship Gasol-Ibaka frontcourt was their ability to be successful on both ends, able to stretch the floor for the ball handlers, crash the boards, and make a shot when they’re open.
While the current big-man rotation of Birch, Aron Baynes, Pascal Siakam, and Freddie Gillespie has its moments, they’re a long way from elite.
That’s where Robinson-Earl can help. He provides another body in the front-court, but also one with more offensive versatility than any one of those guys besides Siakam. That kind of flexibility is what creates elite bench depth, but it also is where Nick Nurse thrives.
Northeast teams have a tendency to take Northeast players, and NBA Players from Villanova have typically panned because lost of them seem to have tireless motors. Lowry’s the big name, but add Josh Hart, Eric Paschall, Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, and Saddiq Bey to that list, and you start to notice a pattern.
Robinson-Earl would be a STEAL if the Raps can snag him in the second round. He’s not a star, so we’re not about to spend our lottery pick on him, but anything below that is grounds for picking.