Ahead of Sunday’s win over the Detroit Pistons, Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey was preaching consistency as the key to the Raptors getting themselves back on track from a horrid month of January where his team slumped to a record of 4-7.
Enter Mister Consistency: 6-foot-9, 235-pound power forward Patrick Patterson comes with his hard hat and lunch bucket every game. While guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan grab the headlines and garner most of the attention, Patterson has been quietly getting the job done for Toronto under the rim. While the spotlight shone on Lowry for both his recent selection as a starter for NBA All-Star Game and fourth-quarter heroics in a 91-86 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, Patterson came away with a double-double, grabbing 13 rebounds and 14 points while also coming up with two key steals in 30 minutes. Patterson has impressed Casey and the rest of the team’s coaching staff since arriving in Toronto last season, not only because of his strong work ethic and grind-it-out attitude to the game, but also because of his smarts.
“His instincts are great, his basketball IQ and the way he anticipates about what is about to happen,” Casey told the Toronto Star. “He doesn’t let it happen and then play; he does a great job of anticipating the play and reacting to it. He is one of our high IQ guys.”
Let’s face it, the Raptors need all the basketball brain cells they can get right now, so you might as well call Patrick, ‘Professor Patterson.’ Toronto is not a strong team under the glass and rank 19th overall in team rebounding, averaging just 42.1 per game, and are 18th overall in blocked shots with 4.5 per game. Without Patterson’s reliability off the bench for Toronto, the Raptors would be somewhere between battling for a playoff spot or on the road to nowhere like the New York Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves. Patterson is averaging 26 minutes per game, 5.5 rebounds and 8.3 points and is a crucial piece of Toronto’s front line, backing up the Raptors’ Johnson & Johnson combo of Amir Johnson and James Johnson and center Jonas Valanciunas. His stats had seen an upswing ahead of Sunday’s game with Patterson, averaging 11 rebounds per game in the team’s three-game road trip. So yes, while he won’t be part of February’s All-Star game and season stats don’t jump off the page at you, Patterson is one of those guys that every coach wants to have and every opponent hates playing against.
In Sunday’s 114-110 victory, Patterson’s numbers weren’t big, finishing with six rebounds, six points in 29 minutes against the Pistons. But it was some of his more unmeasurable actions during his limited minutes on Sunday that were more impressive. In the second quarter it was Patterson’s brilliant no-look pass that set up teammate Tyler Hansbrough and gave Toronto a key basket. In the fourth quarter, he broke up a Pistons’ rush with a key steal to help Toronto maintain its momentum.
Patterson was a 14th overall selection by the Houston Rockets from the Kentucky Wildcats in the 2010 NBA Draft and made his way to Toronto as part of a six-player deal that sent guard Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings on Dec. 9, 2013. He has played an integral role in the Raptors’ overall upswing in fortunes, so it is no wonder the team decided to lock him up for the next three seasons with a $18 million contract last July. It didn’t take Patterson long to fit in with his new teammates as just a little over a month after joining Toronto, he hit the winning basket against the Brooklyn Nets on Jan. 27, after stealing a Deron Williams inbound pass with six seconds remaining in the game.
It’s usually not the winning shot, but the little things that are part of the professor’s formula for success: Setting screens, offering a big post-up presence in the paint and passing out to the perimeter with his back to the basket. That’s part of the value Patterson brings to the Raptors that can’t be quantified on the stat sheets. If the Raptors fully overcome their recent struggles and get back on track permanently, Patterson will be crucial to that happening.