Fresh off of an impressive win on Sunday night, the Toronto Raptors entered the week with plenty to consider while en route to New York City for an Atlantic Division showdown with the Brooklyn Nets on Monday.
As the pressure continues to build ahead of a likely playoff run however, the last thing that the Raptors needed was to lose an important contributor such as Patrick Patterson to injury. Reported to be sidelined for 7-10 days with a sprained right elbow, Patterson brings a unique combination of skills to the table, and replacing the former SEC standout won’t be easy.
Despite the fact that the 6-foot-9 forward is only expected to miss a short time, Toronto lacks both the overall size and shooting ability to replace him in the paint without sacrificing the team’s ability to be effective beyond the arc. Starting power forward Amir Johnson is likely to be the most affected by the injury as Patterson is directly behind him on the depth chart. Averaging 10.4 PPG and 6.6 RPG in approximately 29 minutes of floor time, Johnson has been an important part of Toronto’s turnaround, but has never been much of an outside shooter.
That’s where the combination of forward Tyler Hansbrough and sharpshooter Steve Novak come in, and both would obviously welcome the playing time.
One of the league’s most notorious bruisers, ”Psycho T” (as he’s affectionately known) joined the Raptors last offseason after gaining some valuable playoff experience as a member of the Indiana Pacers. However, he has been used sparingly since his arrival, and could use this opportunity to earn more than the 15.9 MPG that he’s been given thus far.
Also in his first campaign with Toronto, Novak gained playoff experience prior to joining the Raptors as a member of the New York Knicks last season. With anywhere from 6-10 minutes a game however, the five 3-pointers that Novak made Sunday came as somewhat of a surprise, but more importantly, it proved that he can still be effective on short notice.
11-year veteran John Salmons can also shoot from long range and should see at least a minor increase in playing time during Patterson’s recovery, but won’t be able to help on the glass beyond the odd rebound.
It will take the collective efforts of all four Raptors despite the fact that Patterson isn’t even a member of the starting five. The reason for this isn’t in Patterson’s stats; it’s his ability to score inside while providing a constant deep threat and dragging slower forwards outside of the paint to cover him, which in turn can cause serious matchup problems for the opposition.