Name: Patrick Patterson
Years in the NBA: 10
Key stats: Patterson played in 59 regular-season games, starting 18. He averaged 4.9 points and 2.6 rebounds in 13.2 minutes per game, and he shot 39 percent on 2.9 3-point attempts per game. Patterson only played in two playoff games; both of those appearances came in garbage time.
Future contract status: Patterson was on a minimum contract with the Clippers last season and is now an unrestricted free agent.
After acquiring two superstars last summer, the Clippers needed a couple of veteran minimum players to fill out their roster. Patrick Patterson, having just spent two years in Oklahoma City developing a friendship with Paul George, was a perfect fit.
Patterson’s role was fairly simple with the Clippers this season: he was tasked with spacing the floor on offense and not giving too much back on defense. The assumption was that Patterson would slot in behind JaMychal Green and Moe Harkless in the forward rotation, but Doc Rivers liked Patterson’s size, and thus found more frequent opportunities for him.
After beginning the season in the starting lineup so that he could defend Anthony Davis on opening night, Patterson remained a starter for the first 11 games. Once he left the starting lineup, however, Patterson’s role was very inconsistent. He played heavy minutes when a rotation player was injured, but otherwise wasn’t a part of the five-man starting or bench unit.
Even though Patterson wasn’t a top choice in the rotation, Rivers treated Patterson like a security blanket to use when the halfcourt offense was in a lull. Patterson also had a big role in the seeding games when the Clippers were down several players due to family issues and the coronavirus. He was a reliable bench presence whose minutes could be extended when need be, and he never demanded more.
Patterson was a willing long-range shooter, taking 74 percent of his shots from beyond the arc, and he converted 39 percent of those looks. In addition to his spacing, he had a microscopic turnover rate.
Defensively, Patterson also acquitted himself surprisingly well. He has good size to handle post players in the paint, and he’s judicious with his fouls. The Clippers consistently defended better with Patterson on the floor, regardless of whether he was with the starting unit or the bench players.
Furthermore, though the Clippers didn’t turn to it much, Patterson was a capable small-ball five. The Clippers scored efficiently with a shooting center, and those lineups rebounded the ball well, at least on the defensive end. Should he return, that’s a look the team could use more often, especially under Ty Lue.
Patterson doesn’t really do anything on offense other than shoot threes. He has no juice off the bounce and is essentially useless inside the arc, where his diminishing athleticism makes it difficult to even finish at the rim. Therefore, though his spacing has value, his overall impact on offense was negative.
The Clippers found ways for Patterson to be effective on defense by matching him against bulkier forwards and centers because he is not suited to defend in space, at least not at this point in his career. He’s a smart player and a good veteran to have on the bench, but he can’t defend perimeter-oriented bigs, which reduces his utility.
Future with the Clippers:
Patterson is still friends with George, so he has a better chance of staying with the Clippers next year than some random big in free agency. There’s a theory of Patterson turning into a Channing Frye type of player if Lue emphasizes spacing in a five-out offense. Patterson has the shooting ability to survive in that kind of role if he commits to being an unrepentant gunner.
There’s no need for the Clippers to keep Patterson, however. They can easily find his production elsewhere on their own roster, as they did for most of the season, and it stands to reason that his game will progressively decline as he gets older.
Overall grade: B
The fact that Patterson was a positive player meant he wildly exceeded expectations. His opening night performance alone is worthy of an above-average grade. He gave the Clippers capable minutes off the bench and was always ready. In a season when it seemed like some of the players weren’t fully invested at all times, Patterson never had that problem. He played hard every day, and even though his skill level limited his output, he was still a worthy contributor.