Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Patterson Expectations

Patrick Patterson - 6'9", 235 lb.
2009-2010 with Kentucky Wildcats
33 minutes, 14.3 points (57.5% FG, 34.8% 3PT, 69.2% FT), 7.4 rebounds, .9 assists, 1.3 blocks, .7 steals, 1.1 TOs

The University of Kentucky's modern day Paul Bunyan figure is now an NBA rookie. He was one of the very, very, very few bright spots shining through the catastrophic Billy G blip of an era. He was the guy who embodied every aspect of any local hero you could ever wish for. He was UK. Now he's a Rocket.

The big issue in looking at Pat's production from last season is the Demarcus Cousins effect. In his 2009 sophomore season, pre-Boogie, Pat put up 18/9/2 with 2 blocks and shot over 60% from the field. That drop in production would be a death toll for any other NBA prospect, but with his added skill of 3-point shooting and the scouts' understanding of his deference all last season to UK's incoming talent, Pat universally rose on everyone's draft boards. It was a crazy gutsy move for him, knowing that the team was in transition and he would have to sacrifice individual production on a monumental level. But he did it anyway, lived with the sacrifice, and was better off (playing-wise and monetarily) because of it. Win-win.

All that being said and as hard as it is for me to admit, I don't think P-Patt has a very good chance at an All-Star level career. Because of that, I see his ceiling as a Horace Grant-type 3rd option player. Grant did sneak in an All-Star appearance in '94 while MJ was busy watching a few baseball games, but he was more noted for his defensive work and tenure, logging over 30 minutes per game in 13 of his 17 NBA seasons. Horace has a little bit of height over Patrick and better natural defensive instincts so far, but Pat already has more consistency in his jumper and far better range. One thing that has to be a major focus for Patterson is developing his passing ability, which was completely nonexistent at UK, if he has any hopes of being as productive as Grant. He won't be seeing many dump-down, clear out situations in the pros due to his lack of size, but being a high energy guy on the boards will go a long way in him defining his game and surprising a lot of people with his insane level of strength and fitness.

Horace Grant - 6'10", 215 lb.
1993-1994 with Chicago Bulls
36.7 minutes, 15.1 points (52.4% FG, 59.6% FT), 11 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.1 steals, 1.6 TOs

In the same way I don't think P-Patt has as high of a ceiling as the other 2010 UK rookies at the pro level, he also has a shorter drop as to what his worst case scenario is. The most frequent modern day comparison used for Patrick is current undersized Jazz forward Paul Millsap; and it's highly warranted. Millsap is a workhorse who runs the fast break well, has an adequate mid-range shot, and destroys his oversized competition on the board, all these being things that Patrick's already got on lock and ready to contribute at the pro level. Yet he's probably going to be a career back-up unless he gets on another squad purged of all front court size. He spent all of his first four seasons as Carlos Boozer's bench relief and is set to play the same role in Al Jefferson's shadow for the foreseeable future. The highlight of Millsap's early career was taking advantage of Booze's injury-prone nature in the '09 season where he had 38 starting opportunities. He put up a string of 19 consecutive double-doubles in Boozer's absence, showing off his capability as an NBA starter. But Millsap was relegated once again to mop-up duty once he returned.

Paul Millsap - 6'8", 245 lb.
2008-2009 with Utah Jazz
30.1 minutes, 13.5 points (53.4% FG, 69.9% FT), 8.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1 block, 1 steal, 1.7 TOs

I'm personally rooting for the Rockets to win the Carmelo sweepstakes and trade away half their big men for him. Unless Patrick's able to pull the ability to handle the ball out of a magic hat in the next month, he's stuck as an undersized power forward or super-undersized center in the most dire of instances. With that niched position in mind, it sucks that the Rockets currently employ Yao Ming, Brad Miller, Luis Scola, Chuck Hayes, and Jordan Hill all fighting for those 96 big men minutes between them. The only guy Patrick's probably ahead of on the depth chart is Hill. Plus you gotta figure that Yao and Scola get at least 65 of those available minutes between them. Not good for a rookie. So unless something big changes, we may not see a lot of P-Patt in the early going. But he's too solid to not break his way into someone's rotation and be an impact player at some point. Big Blue nation will be right behind him for the entire journey. He's our guy.

... and do the John Wall.

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