The Oklahoma City Thunder made the splash deal of the NBA off-season thus far. They shocked the basketball world by dealing Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to the Indiana Pacers for Paul George. That was something not many saw coming, but the off-season additions did not stop there for Thunder General Manager Sam Presti. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported earlier this month that OKC added veteran forward Patrick Patterson as well. That will pay dividends on both ends.
Free agent forward Patrick Patterson has agreed to a three-year, $16.4M deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder, league sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 5, 2017
Patrick Patterson Is A Perfect Fit With The Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder were one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the NBA last season. As one could probably imagine, when a team loses Kevin Durant, you are losing a lot from the perimeter. OKC was last in the league in three-point shooting percentage in the regular season, per teamrankings.com. They were also 26th in threes made per game, again per teamrankings.com. Bringing in a bench player of Patterson’s shooting ability should considerably help the Thunder’s three point numbers, and improve the floor spacing for Russell Westbrook and company.
His overall production has been down the last two years, but a change of scenery should turn things around. He struggled in the playoffs this year, but so did most of the Toronto Raptors roster. He had the two lowest usage rates of his career in the last two seasons (per Basketball Reference), and that made it harder to get into a rhythm offensively. It is not as if he is ever going to be a focal point offensively, but it is hard to believe Patterson doesn’t have a resurgent scoring season.
It’s The Little Things That Matter In the Playoffs
He did many other things to contribute to Toronto wins last year. When you factor in game appearances and minutes played, Patterson led the Raptors in net rating the last two seasons (per nba.com). Although he was not scoring to his potential, he was invaluable to Toronto’s success. He is a good screener off-ball (1.9 screen assists per game per Synergy), which should benefit the Thunder on the wing and in big-to-big sets. 1.9 screen assists per game is nothing to sneeze at.
That should fit in well with his ability to spot up and convert on passes from Westbrook and others. In turn, that gives Steven Adams or Enes Kanter more room inside for post ups. He was in the 73rd percentile in spot-up situations, per Synergy, and he will have plenty of opportunities in that area with defenses keying in on George, Kanter and Westbrook.
Two-man action on the wing with him and sniper Doug McDermott could provide impact in spurts, too. With defenses closing out harder on the perimeter due to improved floor spacing, Patterson should be able to get a number of easy floaters, which he can knock down. That said, Patterson is not just a shooter.
He is a willing passer who reads defenses well, and he makes quick decisions. You saw some of that last season, where he even played some small-ball center with Toronto. His unselfishness should enable athletic wings like Andre Roberson and Jerami Grant to get some baskets on baseline cuts and lobs throughout the course of games. Last but not least, Patterson gives OKC a defensive gem.
Guarding Multiple Positions
Perhaps the most attractive attribute Patterson has is that he is a “stretchy” big. His 7’2″ wingspan allows him to make plays in passing lanes, leading to deflections and points on the break. The Thunder should be even better in the near future at getting points via the fast break, where they were third in the NBA last season, per nba.com. That wingspan has also given Patterson the ability to hang with players well in isolation and in the pick-and-roll. When guarding the roll man, he only allowed a field goal percentage of 35.7, per Synergy. To compare, Draymond Green was only a bit better, allowing a field goal percentage of 34.9.
He is quick enough to hold his own on switches as well, and Patterson was in the 76th percentile when guarding the ball handler in pick-and-roll situations. Moreover, he can guard wings if the Thunder want to be in more traditional sets, which could allow George to use his length on two-guards.
Patterson’s length can negate spot-up shooters for long stretches, as evidenced by opponents only hitting 34.9 percent on their spot-ups (per Synergy). He rated in the 76th percentile on spot-ups as well. That should bode well when OKC is matched up with small-ball teams, as he is on his assignments against stretch-fours.
Along with that ability on the outside, Patterson is an instinctive defender near the rim. He is disciplined in staying down on pump fakes, and he has great timing when coming rotating over to block shots on the weak side. That is a huge upgrade from Kanter on defense, as his lack of quickness makes him sometimes unplayable. When you factor in all that he does on a nightly basis, Patterson is a perfect fit for OKC.