Toronto Raptors power forward Patrick Patterson returned to Kentucky for his junior season with new Head Coach John Calipari instead of cashing in on a great sophomore campaign and it changed his game and most likely, his career prospects in the NBA.
The Wildcats had a stacked team in 2009-2010. The future 2010 number 1 overall NBA draft pick John Wall and the future number 5 overall pick DeMarcus Cousins meant Patterson’s own stats were about to take a tumble, but the skills he learned because of that Wildcats roster changed the way Patterson played and helped create the unselfish stretch 4 playing for the Raptors this season.
“Being taller than everybody, I was forced to play the 5,” Patterson said. “In college my first 2 years, I was a center at 6’8, so to that I credit my post defense and (Coach) Calipari, he came in my junior year, he introduced me to the perimeter game. He allowed me to shoot the ball, put the ball on the floor and that allowed me to transition to the NBA.
“It opened up my game. Had I not stayed with DeMarcus (Cousins) and John (Wall), I would have come out as a 6’8 center. A guy who had never stepped out to the three-point line or even taken an 18’ jump shot, I would be pretty much a version of Chuck (Hayes), but not as strong and not as wide. That would have been my game, just around the basket and then I would have had to start from scratch when I got to the NBA. Coming back with John and DeMarcus and Calipari is definitely the reason that I am the type of player I am today.”
Calipari was definitely happy to have the junior on his team at the time and Patterson, who had attempted just 4 three-point shots in his first 2 college seasons, put up 69 bombs in his junior year and hit on 34.8 percent of them. The changes Calipari made showcased his potential as a big man with a jump shot.
“Patrick is a remarkable individual. His decision to return to the University of Kentucky for a chance to graduate in three years is admirable. Fans will see things from him this season that they didn’t think were possible. Players like Patrick make coaching seem easy,” Calipari said. (Kentucky Wildcats player page)
Patterson continued working on his game after being drafted 14th overall by Houston in 2010 and in his third season, established he could be a stretch 4 with range out the NBA three-point line.
“(Since college I) continued with my shot, being able to stretch the floor, being able to expend out to the three-point line, being able to attack and close out and put the ball on the floor or read the defense and make the extra pass,” Patterson said. “(Also work on) my strength and quickness, being able to guard the post on a regular basis, being able to move my feet laterally and being able to contain a perimeter player.”
Patterson started 38 games for the Rockets in 2012-2013 and was averaging 36.5 percent from deep before he was traded to Sacramento midseason. His long range shooting continued to improve, but his opportunities to score were more limited on the Kings and when Patterson was traded to the Raptors in early December this year, his current season had not gotten off to a good start. That was about to change dramatically on his arrival in Toronto.
“Everything (is different,)” Patterson said. “Coaching staff, organization, team, location, style of play everything is totally different here. My shot is just falling. Things just seem to go more smoothly here. The transition was easy due to my relationship with the guys, having a great coach – Casey – Kentucky relationship. My play has been a lot better here due to – overall – my shot falling.
“The offense (here) is similar to what Houston’s was. Four out, one in at times, pick-and-rolls, pick-and-movement, moving and sharing the ball around the perimeter, if you are open in transition – shoot the ball. When the ball swings to me, (I have) no hesitation to shoot the ball. Here, I am definitely comfortable.”
So comfortable in fact that he has been hitting 50.5 percent of his shots and exactly half of his three-point attempts. Head Coach Dwane Casey has the big strong physical post defender that can stretch the floor he has been looking for. Patterson has embraced his role and believes the Raptors can have one of the top 5 benches in the NBA if they play with energy and share the ball. The desire to be part of a winning team permeates every discussion with Patterson and the new Raptors acquired from Sacramento.
“It is all about energy,” Patterson said. “We know in order to win games, we are not going to out-talent most teams. We don’t have the superstar type players. DeMar (DeRozan) and Kyle (Lowry) are starting to progress, but as far as the second group goes, we focus more on defense, pushing the ball in transition and making the extra pass, sharing the ball in the half court, trying to find the open man and capitalizing on our opportunities. So far this year since the trade, I thought we have been doing exceptionally well and here of late, the bench is starting to step up a lot more so. We would love to have one of the top 5 benches in the league. I think we can get progressively better on defense and start hitting our shots more often than not.’
“We want to win. Greivis (Vasquez) coming from New Orleans, he was a starting point guard with high assists. Myself, I was a starter in Houston. John Salmons, he has played so much throughout his career and so has Chuck (Hayes), they have both put an exceptional amount of work in. None of us are selfish. We want to do whatever it takes to win basketball games and we put the team ahead of ourselves. There is no ‘i’ in team and we all believe in that type of focus day-in and day-out. The attitude we bring to teams of moving and sharing the ball and here in Toronto, moving and sharing the ball and it seems we have been doing it exceptionally well. We have great professionalism in every type of player on the team – on the roster – and it makes basketball a lot simpler.”
Not every young player can accept a reduced role to help create a winning team, but Patterson has already gone through this once in college as a junior. At Kentucky, Patterson had to learn more than to just develop his perimeter game, playing with Wall and Cousins meant he had to be unselfish for his team to win. Credit Calipari for helping Patterson develop his skills. Maturity and professionalism, however, come from within.