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Scola & Patterson

Will Raptors Patrick Patterson Step Up And Take The Starting Job?

The Toronto Raptors want Patrick Patterson to step up and take the starting power forward job, but he hasn’t been making it easy to hand it to him. Head coach Dwane Casey continues to insist that nothing is promised this season and players will have to earn their roles and Patterson has looked like a square peg in a round hole as a starter.

“We got to find five guys tied together defensively,” Casey said after their last preseason game. “Patrick has got to take those (three-point) shots. I don’t care if he misses, he has got to take them.”

Through three preseason games Patterson is averaging 2 points, 2.3 rebounds, 18.7 minutes and 33.3 percent shooting. He isn’t fitting in on defense and he isn’t playing the stretch-four role Casey was hoping would open the inside for Jonas Valanciunas. This isn’t a complete surprise. When asked to start last season, Patterson played some of the worst basketball of his tenure in Toronto and that’s from a guy Casey can normally rely upon for offense and defense off the bench.

What this has been leading to is Casey taking a look at Scola with the starters, giving Anthony Bennett a shot and even James Johnson some minutes.

“We got to find out who Pat Patterson is,” Casey lamented. “Who Luis Scola is, who Anthony Bennett is, James Johnson? We got to find some of those positions to come and help us.”

Casey’s biggest problem may be he wants Scola to help with the development of Bismack Biyombo and to provide a veteran scoring punch in the second unit, but Scola is likely the far superior fit with the starters right now and he knows it.

Through three preseason games the solidly reliable Scola is averaging 9.3 points, 7 rebounds, 16.7 minutes and 54.5 percent shooting. Scola doesn’t have Patterson’s range, but he’ll shoot the open jump shot, keep the floor spaced and can hit the occasional three. Scola is also a far superior rebounder, but this isn’t anything Casey didn’t know going in. Scola is second in total rebounds so far with 21 boards, just 5 boards behind Valanciunas. Patterson has 7 total rebounds (tied with guards Terrence Ross and Delon Wright).

Both Bennett and Johnson have been slowed by (hopefully) minor injuries and they haven’t taken Patterson’s minutes yet. Bennett averaging 4.5 points, 1.5 rebounds, 11.5 minutes and 27.3 percent shooting in two games. Johnson has 2 rebounds in 8 minutes so far. However, there is still a long ways to go before the regular season starts.

“It’s a work in progress,” Casey said. “We are not there yet. We have a long ways to go defensively. A long way to go offensively. That’s why we call it preseason.”

At the start of preseason Casey said he was looking for the best fit with Valanciunas from his starting power forward and it’s obvious now that he was hoping a stretch four would provide that. However, sometimes things don’t go as hoped or take longer to develop than expected.

Scola can play in either the starting unit or come off the bench and be an impact player for Casey. Scola is a veteran who can play a multitude of roles and making life easier for Valanciunas isn’t likely to be much of a challenge for him. Even though this will be Patterson’s third season with the Raptors, it’s possible he may not be the right fit with the starters. He wasn’t last year.

There are four more preseason games and little over two weeks before the games start to count and if Patterson can show some progress as a starter it would help, but what would really help is if Patterson would step up and take the role he says he wants.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.