It’s been a long transition from college center to NBA traditional power forward to stretch four and now sometimes a power three for the Toronto Raptors and it hasn’t always been a pretty voyage, but Patrick Patterson just sees it as the way things are in today’s game and he plans on going with the flow.
“It’s just evolution,” Patterson told Pro Bball Report after the Raptors beat Cleveland in Toronto recently. “The game has changed over time. Every single pit stop that I’ve been in my career it seems like something different or something changes or coaches want something different from me. Now it’s guarding on the perimeter. It’s moving my feet laterally and guarding ones, twos and threes, so it’s adaptation pretty much.”
LeBron James has redefined the small forward position. At 6’8 and 250 lbs (at least), James not only looks bigger than a lot of power forwards, he is bigger and stronger, but his ball handling skills, passing ability and shooting let him control the game from the perimeter. He’s a load to guard for a traditional wing. He’s not alone either, the Knicks Carmelo Anthony and the Pacers Paul George fit in this category and Joe Johnson powered the Nets past Toronto two years ago in the playoffs when they had no one to guard someone that strong at that position.
Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri brought in free agent DeMarre Carroll this summer to be Toronto’s power small forward or at least to guard that position, but Carroll’s been out of action since the beginning of January, so head coach Dwane Casey has been forced to lean on another option – the 6’9 240 lb Patterson.
Patterson took to the challenge of guarding James thru parts of the Raptors 99-97 win over the Cavs at the end of February and he did pretty well.
“I’m hoping well enough,” Patterson exclaimed. “Obviously well enough to get the win. Just trying to carry out the defensive schemes and just try to limit (James’) touches as much as possible.”
Patterson’s ability to stay with more mobile players on the perimeter, especially those bigger mobile players than can just power thru the typical wing has its benefits even after Carroll returns sometime in March (hopefully).
“Just gradually getting better at it (and) whenever D.C. (Carroll) gets back, have him on the perimeter and J.J. (Johnson) as well and myself as well, so being able to match up and switch on the perimeter rather than carrying out different coverages throughout the course of the game.”
Not to mention the obvious benefits of having enough capable warm bodies to guard a player like James or George if the starting small forward were to get into foul trouble.
“(Patterson) did a good job. Pat is learning,” Casey said. “He is learning to guard those positions, those power threes. I thought he did a decent job against Carmelo (Anthony) and now tonight against James. He got to have that because until you get that extra body back in Carroll, he and James Johnson have to really man that position. You got a lot of guys at that spot. A lot of guys at that big bulky power three position that can handle the ball, run pick-and-rolls and Pat is learning to do that.”
Previously Patterson has told Pro Bball Report that, “now it’s a small man’s game,” but maybe not so much and definitely not all the time. Sometimes it’s still a big man’s game with players big enough to play power forward and center handling the ball, setting up plays and shooting like it a guard.
“To be able to have a five that can play four/five or a four that can play three/four/five or a wing that can play every position that’s definitely valuable in this league and that’s what teams tend to gravitate toward,” Patterson said.