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Player Review: The two sides of Patrick Patterson

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When the Raptors needed the Patterson they know and love most, he was nowhere to be found.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Raptors Patrick Patterson proving to be a perfect fit in todays NBA.”

This was a headline written in the Toronto Star about Raptors forward Patrick Patterson nearing the conclusion of the 2014 NBA season. It was Raptor nation’s first look at the versatile, six-foot-nine forward, as number 54 quickly turned from commonplace bench player to fan-favorite. (I personally own and still sport my 2Pat t-shirt to games). While this headline still rings true, Patterson has also provided Raps fans with reason to dismiss it.

When the Raptors traded away Rudy Gay in 2013, it was certainly not in an effort to bolster the roster and manifest a serious contender with the returns. Patterson is the sole piece that remains from that trade and has been an integral member of what has been one of the best benches in basketball over recent years. The Raptors bench ranked 3rd this season in terms of total-points added (86.58) behind only the Miami Heat, who’s entire team is one long bench, and the San Antonio Spurs, who are a basketball machine.

Combine this depth with the star power of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, and all of the sudden the Raptors have stumbled into a conference championship caliber team — something that basketball fans in Toronto have never experienced.

Remember this?

This clip from a game in Brooklyn during the 2013-14 season provides a near perfect summation of why Patterson has been so valuable for the Raptors. He reads the play like a snake in the grass, picks off the inbound pass and works a selfless little two-man game with Kyle Lowry before pump faking Deron Williams out of the Barclays Centre and nailing the game-winning jumper.

Fast-forward to 2017 and Patterson’s game has stood pat (pun totally intended) while expectations have risen and patience has waned. Whenever I look to give Patterson the benefit of the doubt and accept him for the player that he is, I remember something — the dude is just 26 years old. He came to Toronto at the age of 22 (plenty of room for growth, right?) and since then has appeared to fast forward through the prime of his career. He is a bench player, I get it, but if you can tell me one thing that Patterson has added to his game since arriving, I would love to hear it. I probably forced you into a Patterson-level playoff brain-cramp. My bad.

The addition of Serge Ibaka at the trade deadline had the city in celebration and may have forced Patterson into a daily routine of checking the real estate market in Los Angeles, or the best places to grab a bite in Dallas (these are not real rumours for the record). It was inevitable that his role would diminish upon the arrival of Serge, and he began to play like it, too.

Just to preface this entire evaluation, I still don’t know how I feel about Patrick Patterson as a Raptor and come the end of this read, you probably won’t either.

The Good

Patterson absolutely has the potential to provide vital minutes off the bench for an elite NBA team as we have come to see over his years in Toronto. He is an incredible teammate and a real “glue guy” in the locker room, for whatever that is worth these days. Outside of these intangibles, Patty P can ball when placed in the right situation and can fit quite seamlessly into any rotation due to his combination of size, speed and smarts. The Raptors went 42-23 with Patterson in the lineup this season and just 9-8 without him.

The eye test may not have been on his side this season, as even I had to refresh the page when I saw a 37 percent clip from three-point land in his stat line for the campaign. In fact, Patterson’s offensive output remained relatively idle from a season ago across the board, providing the same production and consistency at that end of the floor.

The aforementioned versatility of Patterson has gone a long way for the Raptors, as the Washington native is somewhat of a basketball chameleon, seemingly able to adapt to whatever climate he faces on the hardwood. In bigger lineups, Patterson has the ability to plug into the four spot and take on all comers and in smaller lineups, his ability to stretch the floor for the Raptors and defend slightly bigger players allows Dwane Casey to slip him into the five if need be.

Patterson owned the third highest net-rating this season (10.9) behind only Andre Iguodala and Patty Mills (a Warrior and a Spur) of any bench player who averaged a minimum of 20 minutes per-game — a testament to his effectiveness as a role player in this league. In fact, the Raptors three most effective lineups this season (minimum of 90 minutes played as a unit) all included Patterson in the fold.

The Bad

Unfortunately, because the bad came during pivotal stretches, including the late-season push and the playoffs, Patterson’s pitfalls became magnified on a night-to-night basis, frustrating the Raptor faithful and forcing them to question his impact.

As Patterson’s confidence waned, so too did his performance. The once productive and collected forward slowly turned into a reluctant deer in headlights, passing up shots like they were the plague and wanting nothing to do with the basketball. It got so bad that at times it literally looked like a game of hot potato. Patterson looked scrambled, disoriented and he along with his brick brother in DeMarre Carroll began to remind me of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker trying to dispose of a bomb in Rush Hour Two.

Patterson may be a versatile team player, but in terms of his individual game (particularly offensively), it’s pretty much catch-and-shoot threes or bust. Patterson isn’t a particularly strong post-up player and doesn’t spend very much time at the free-throw line. He can be effective in the pick-and-roll, but it is often quite transitory when he is struggling to shoot the ball. If he’s hitting his shots, great, if not, the team has a liability on its hands.

Against the Cavaliers, it got to the point where LeBron and company opted to ignore Patterson with slight disdain, knowing that he wouldn’t shoot and if he did, it probably wasn’t going in. It would be great to see him add another tool to his lonely kit, but after four years of watching and waiting, I’m just not sure it will ever happen.

Pretty much every stat that I just used to decorate Patterson’s season could be thrown out the window in the playoffs. He sported a net rating of -16.6, ranking him second last behind just Kelly Oubre Jr. for players playing more than six post-season contests. Any efficiency that he showed throughout the season crumbled, shooting an abysmal 27 percent from the floor and just 30 percent from three-point range.

When the Raptors needed the Patterson that they know and love most, he was nowhere to be found.

The Grade: C+

If Patterson’s woes had come at a better time — say, the pre-season — I may have been slightly less critical of his performance this year. But when the going gets tough and the injuries begin to rack up, guys like Patterson just need to be on their game to give the Raptors a chance to win.

Whether or not Patterson is back with the Raptors next season depends on a number of things. Most importantly, Patterson has to want to be back. I don’t doubt that he does, but he may want to explore other options and see what’s available for him around the league. Second, if Lowry resigns, this is most likely a notion that the Raptors are all-in once again and will bring back Serge Ibaka and/or P.J. Tucker as well. This reality may become less exciting for Patterson considering the way this dynamic played out to end the year. Third, there’s always the dollar amount to figure. Patterson’s value was hurt by his end of season performance, but by how much?

Only time can tell what the future will hold for Patterson and the rest of the Raptors, but one thing is for sure — whether he is back or not, 2Pat will not be forgotten by Toronto.