At season's end, Lou Williams walked away with Sixth Man of the Year honours. But during the early part of the 2014-15 season, Williams wasn't even the best reserve on his own team.
That distinction belonged to Patrick Patterson - the Raptors' triple-draining, versatile and hard-working third big man. Fresh off signing a new three-year, $18 million contract, Patterson was a vital contributor to the Raptors' fool's gold start to the season thanks in large part to his prolific three-point shooting before the New Year.
Things soured for the ex-Rocket and King in the second half though. Following the same trajectory as his team, Patterson went from scorching to frigid in the final 50 games. A studly 46.3 percent of his threes found the bottom of the bucket before the calendar rolled to January - a mark that slipped to a decidedly below-average 31.4 in 2015.
Even though Patterson lost his deft touch from outside, he was able to contribute in other ways. When he had down offensive nights, he tried his darnedest to contribute on the glass. In addition, on a defensively inept squad anchored by a still-developing Jonas Valanciunas and a limping Amir Johnson, Patterson injected a shot of mobility and intelligence to Toronto's big rotation - even if he's not strong enough to be a brutish, lock-down defender.
He proved many times this season that he's an important adhesive for Toronto, despite how broken the team appeared late in the campaign.
81 games played (4 starts); 26.6 minutes; 8.0 points; 44.9 FG%; 37.1 3FG%; 78.8 FT%; 5.3 rebounds; 1.9 assists; 0.7 steals; 0.5 blocks; +5.3 NET Rating
January 23rd @ Philadelphia (91-86 Win)
It's hard to understate how poorly the Raptors were playing heading into January 23rd's game against the Sixers. The 11 games preceding the Friday night affair marked Toronto's first extended lull of the season. It dropped eight of those 11 contests and saw its dynamic offense sputter to a 99.9 Offensive Rating in that time. Based on how Toronto played early on against Philadelphia, it looked like the losses were going to continue mounting.
Patterson wasn't having that though. In nearly 30 minutes off the bench, he went 6 for 10 and 2 for 4 from beyond the arc for 14 points, adding 13 boards (6 offensive), three assists and a team best +26 for the night. He played the final 7:45, helping Toronto end its slide and ignite the last of the team's three six-game winning streaks this year.
February 27th, vs. Golden State (113-89 Loss)
In fairness to Patterson, Toronto's second blowout loss to the eventual Western Conference Champions was the worst game of the year for a lot of Raptors. Patterson was also put into the untenable position of starting in place of Amir Johnson, leaving the Raptors without their best interior defender against one of the best offenses in the league. It resulted in a stat line of 4 points, 2 rebounds and no assists on 2 of 7 shooting (0 for 2 from three) and a season-worst -24; a truly brutal performance for Patterson on an embarrassing night for the Raptors.
Strengths & Weaknesses
+ A smooth, above average three-point shooter who can be deadly when he's hot.
+ Solid play-maker capable of setting up teammates without turning the ball over (10.7 Assist Percentage; 2.87 Assist to Turnover Ratio - best among all power forwards).
+ Has the size and athleticism to guard out to the perimeter.
- A poor rebounder at the power forward position (11.8 percent career Rebounding Rate).
- While versatile defensively, lacks the strength to guard hulking big men and physical wings.
Role Next Season
Patterson is one of the few Raptors without a massive question mark hanging above his head this off-season. He's locked in for the next two seasons, and as Zach Lowe's article on the growing importance of "playmaking fours" pointed out last week, players of Patterson's ilk - who can shoot, pass and score in the post from the power forward spot - are becoming one of the most coveted commodities in the league. Patterson is no Draymond Green, but he can shoot from range, ranked among the best fours in the league in assists per-48 minutes and despite rarely doing it, managed 0.96 points per possession when posting up this year.
Although he may not do anything at an elite level, the bevy of tools at Patterson's disposal makes him a valuable member of Toronto's rotation. And if Masai Ujiri fails to bring in a high-quality replacement for Amir Johnson, Patterson could be asked to bring that skill set to the starting line-up. With poor shooting abound in this year's starting unit, that might not be a bad thing.