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In the preseason of 2015-2016, the power forward position was up for grabs after the departure of long-time Raptor Amir Johnson. The idea was that Patrick Patterson would slot into the starting lineup, spacing out the floor a bit more for drive-and-kick opportunities with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, and allowing Jonas Valanciunas more space to operate in the low post. This plan would be shoved to the side when Patterson struggled in the preseason, and newly acquired veteran Luis Scola appeared to be an able candidate to fill in as a starter.

Patterson wouldn’t start in a single regular season game last season, but after a slow start Patterson would find more floor time, and his numbers would improve drastically as the year went on. Before the All-Star break, Patterson was averaging 24.4mpg, 6.3ppg and 4.2TRB on 39% shooting from the field and 34% from three, all numbers below Patterson’s averages in his previous seasons with the team. Scola would slow down a bit as the season progressed, too, and wouldn’t be able to defend in important late-game situations, so the Raptors only option was to play Patterson more.

He would step up on both ends of the floor, and he would play very important minutes down the final stretch of the season. He probably should have been starting. After the All-Star break, he averaged 27.7mpg, 8.1pts, and 4.5TRB on 44.5% shooting from the field and, most notably, 39% from three. This trend would continue into the postseason, and Patterson would start nine games in the playoffs, playing significant minutes due to his strong defensive presence guarding multiple positions and stronger forwards like LeBron James and Joe Johnson.

While Patterson’s ability to guard multiple positions on defense is a great asset, his offensive game and ability to stretch the floor also serve a major role for the Raptors. A majority of Patterson’s shots last year were above the break threes, which accounted for 174 of his 293 3-point attempts, Patterson shot 35.6% on those, which is roughly league average, while 59.4% of all of his shots were threes. While Patterson might not be the most elite shooting stretch four in the NBA, his 37% three point shooting on 2.9 attempts over a four-year sample is essential to their floor spacing. Players like Bismack Biyombo and Cory Joesph weren’t players who operated too far away from the rim, so having Patterson to kick the ball out to as the trailer helped get a lot of easy, wide-open shots. Patterson was efficient in this offensive system, and when Patterson was on the floor the Raptors were 6.2 points per-100 possessions better at the offensive end.

Source: Vorped.com

Entering training camp this season, the starting power forward position is not Patterson’s to lose, it’s his to win. With the offseason acquisition of free agent Jared Sullinger, who fits better than Scola next to Valanciunas on defense (the amount of rebounds that tandem is going to grab will be ridiculous), Patterson once again slots as the presumed sixth man. Sullinger also fits nicely into their offensive system, as someone who sets great screens, and his mid-range shot situates him nicely in the “Horns” offense the Raptors run a lot.

It looks as though Patterson will have to prove himself to be the starter. Both Sullinger and Patterson find themselves in contract years, and the fight for that starting spot won’t be an easy decision for head coach Dwayne Casey. As mentioned this week in the Media Day notes article that Blake Murphy wrote, Casey is leaning toward Sullinger early on:

“I’m not going to commit to it, but right now, today, I would say Jared Sullinger, it’s his to lose…I consider Pat the sixth starter for me, but for the balance of the minutes, balance of the first unit-second unit, I would say Sullinger is the guy now that it would be his to lose, but I reserve the right to change my mind.”

Patterson still has a chance to move into the starting spot, and a hot start to the season on the offensive end might be the deciding factor that clinches this role. Also mentioned on media day was that Patterson doesn’t really have a preference as to what his role is on the team: Starter, reserve, whatever. Patterson wants to play a major role on this team, no matter where he’s situated on the depth chart, and he’d have solid value once again if he was playing the sixth man role for what should be a solid bench unit once again.

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  • justsayin

    If Patterson was a knock down shooter this team would be super scary man. All of his threes are wide open and he shoots 35%. Hopefully he gets off to a good start and doesn’t have any confidence issues at all this year.

  • Mark boothe

    Patterson will not be starter unless there is an injury. Casey has always loved him as the sixth man it wont change. Would love to see patterson hit some more of those 3s though especially in the playoffs

  • Mike$

    Just a solid player that fits in well offensively and defensively while being a positive locker room guy. Even when he struggles it just fuels him to try even harder defensively. He has quietly become one of the better rotation players in the NBA. He also fits the modern roll of a PF to a T. He shoots the ball at a decent clip from 3 and just as importantly he can defend multiple positions and always has a positive impact on the defence. He’s really evolved his game defensively the last few years, his smart rotations and high IQ usually always have him in the right place at the right time. He might not swat shots and beast on the boards to get the stats but he’s still a fantastic defender.

    I hope he comes out hotter than last year. When his confidence was down and he was passing up on open shots it really hurt the team. The team needs his shooting a lot this year so hopefully he’s a little bit more consistent. He’s a great piece on any team, I’m expecting good things from PP this year.

  • R.D. Vaughan

    With both players being FA’s next year, (advantage of bird rights with 2Pat), we may very well be surprised that Jared is signed and 2Pat walks. It will make for an interesting year especially as both are relatively young. Pascal’s play may have an odd influence on the eventual signing of the Raptors starting 2017-18 PF, just to add a little more mystery to the roster going forward.

    • Suspicious Mind

      My suspicion is that they plan on losing one of the two purposely, both due to financial constraints and their confidence in the rooks steppin in. Which one of PP or JS stays will be fun to see throughout the season tho.

  • steve fisher

    Patterson’s reluctance to drive the hoop and extremely low rebound and assist rate most games should disqualify him from being a regular starter ! Sully working with JV should completely dominate the boards at both ends which should on the defencive end dramatically reduce the number of second chance points and result in more easy put backs on the O boards ! Patterson MUST if he really wants to continue to improve must regularely WORK on improving his handle AND be willing to absorb the CONTACT which he and TR seem very reluctant to do which makes both ONE DIMENSIONAL and limited in their O role. Because of the limited rebounding, passing, and driving one or both are much more likely to be prime candidates for being part of a TRADE package

  • Noelle

    I get the reasoning that PPat would have helped make the starting line-up better, but I don’t get the insistence, from many, that “coach was wrong and I’m right”. Part of a good coach’s job is to balance out the starters and bench units. You can’t win games playing 5 players. Sure, the starting line-up would likely have been better with Pat in place of Scola, but who can say that the bench unit would then have been anywhere near as effective as it was? And used differently, can we be sure Pat would have had the juice to finish games like he did? Please don’t cite the 9 playoff games, as that doesn’t tell you if he’d have held up over 82 games.
    Bottom line is that the coach’s method of juggling the rotation resulted in a successful season beyond anyone’s expectations, with PPat playing starters minutes off the bench, yet so many still cling to the “coach is wrong, I’m right” narrative. It’s fun to fool around with hypotheticals and theories, but reality says that coach was very successful with how he balanced out the rotation. Maybe time to question one’s own theories before continuing to say the coach was wrong? Has Pop been wrong for 10 years, having a future HOFer coming off the bench, while far lesser SGs have been starting?

    • GoingBig

      ” Please don’t cite the 9 playoff games, as that doesn’t tell you if he’d have held up over 82 games.”

      I think they do say a bit. In the playoffs he played too many minutes per game (34?) and was too tired to give the best defence and offence at the end of games.

      To get ready for those 34 minutes as a play-off starter(finisher), he is going to have to make a full year’s commitment to playing 34 minutes in the regular season.
      Or we’re going to get a repeat inadequate performance by Patterson.

  • Camer Armsrton

    One thing about Patterson starting in the playoffs is that he plays so hard that he wasn’t as effective playing ~34 mins as when he was playing ~28 mins. Having a guy we won’t have to bench in the playoffs means even if we have to start Patterson he won’t have to play so mang mins that he’s gassed at the end.
    I don’t really want Patterson starting and Sully off the bench because if Bebe is the primary back up i don’t think him and Sully would be as effective as him and Patterson, and I think JV and Sully have the talent to make it work well.

    • Merited

      It seems as though the coaching staff think Patterson is better suited coming off the bench. I think it’s something mental – having less pressure to perform or something to that effect. He is energetic, as you suggested, and the best part about that is that he can inject that energy into the second unit.

      I’m comfortable with Sullinger starting. I suspect we will all feel more comfortable as we see more preseason games. I’m also comfortable with our big-man depth: Siakam and Poeltl are solid rookies. The best part about this is the opportunity we have to trade a combination of Ross and Bebe in a pump and dump scenario, given that we have excellent depth in the aforementioned rookes as well as Norman Powell.

  • n8

    Patterson needs to get back to his pick and pop midrange game. I know thats against conventional offensive wisdom but that first year Patterson came in was still the most impressive for me because his pick and pop jumper from 15-20 feet was an automatic bucket. He shot 49% on 10-15ft attempts in 2013-2014, 52% in 2014-2015, and suddenly 34% in 2015-2016, as well as going from 5 2-point attempts all the way down to 2. His three point percentage has also slightly declined since then as well. He has pretty much completely cut out what used to be a key part of his game and it was something he did at an elite level as well. In my opinion, the ability of a stretch 4 to short roll/ pop and put pressure on pick and roll defense by consistently knocking down a freethrow line jumper is just as important as his ability to flare and knock down a three. Statistics aside, his mechanics look so much smoother from midrange as well, its much more rythmic and his release is higher and quicker. Im not against him shooting 3’s, but his offensive contributions would go up so much if he started using that midrange weapon again.