"Patman! Patman! Why isn't he starting, Coach?"
"Because we have to bench him."
"He didn't do anything wrong."
"Because he’s the hero Toronto deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll bench him because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian. A watchful protector. A dark knight."
I'm going to give you the stats for a mystery team, and a mystery player, and you can try to guess if the player plays on that mystery team or not.
Over the past nine games, the team has lost a good number of winnable games, with many key players struggling. They'd lost four in a row before this nine game stretch, then went 5-4 during it. For the most part, players have been playing just as poorly over this period as during the losing streak. The team over this time has a 102.3 offensive rating and a 102 defensive rating, good for a net rating of +0.3 against a very poor set of opponents.
The mystery player has played more than half the game for his past nine games (25.4 MPG). During that stretch, with him on the court, his team has posted an offensive rating of 114 and a defensive rating of 99.2. That's a net rating of +14.8.
So, ignoring how transparent this exercise is, would you guess that the mystery player plays for the mystery team? Seems impossible, for the rest of the team to play poorly enough in the 23 minutes he is off the court to bring that net rating down to neutral.
But Dwane Casey and his Toronto Raptors, our mystery team, have managed just that. Patrick Patterson, our mystery player obviously, has been amazing during this stretch, bringing energy on defence and on the offensive glass, and generating good looks for his teammates on offence. This .500 stretch could easily have been 0-9, stretching that losing streak to 13 games if not for Patterson.
Is it time to start Patterson? The current starting group is not working. The previous starting group was not working. James Johnson should probably be starting, but there are spacing concerns. With Patterson's improved defence and rebounding as of late (posting a Valanciunas-esque 10 percent offensive rebound rate over these nine games), it seems like he's the perfect solution to the team's recent troubles, both in terms of playing well and in terms of fitting with the other should-be-starters.
Over the past nine games, the team has performed very well when Patterson plays with any of the other proposed starters.
Kyle Lowry +21.8 net rating
DeMar DeRozan +15.5 net rating
James Johnson +14.7 net rating
Jonas Valanciunas +27.5 net rating
To put that Jonas rating in perspective, over the past nine games, JV has an overall net rating of -3.2, better only than DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, and Amir Johnson, who is just not right (-14). That means Patterson makes him 30 points per 100 possessions better.
So, should our Dark Knight (and JJ, his Boy Wonder) be benched, a silent guardian, a watchful protector? Or is it time the Dark Knight rises? I think we deserve a hero, and right about now we sure need one.