Jan 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors forward Patrick Patterson (54) goes to make a basket as Detroit Pistons forward Josh Smith (6) looks on during the first half at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Patterson: movin' on up

When the Toronto Raptors dispatched Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy to the Sacramento Kings, most commentators (and certainly me) were happy with the deal. Rudy was a ball-stopping, poor-shooting nightmare as a Rap, and the team’s offense was dying on the vine. He, and his enormous contract, needed to move on, virtually without regard for whichever players were received in return.

Jan 13, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors forward Patrick Patterson (54) defends against Milwaukee Bucks guard O.J. Mayo (00) at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Bucks 116-94. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

I clearly underestimated Masai Ujiri, who managed to wangle Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons, Chuck Hayes and Patrick Patterson out of California’s capital. While the first three are still finding their footing as Raptors, they are already superior second-unit players than the leftovers, and Toronto is a much better squad for their presence. Patterson promises to be more than a rotation player. I’ve seen enough of him to be deeply impressed with his capabilities, and think he may well be ready for a promotion to starter.

Amir Johnson has been the Raps’ starting power forward most of the season, though he was bumped in favour of Tyler Hansbrough for several games in December. After regaining his spot, and playing well, Amir seems to be entering another “down” period, with three disappointing games in a row against inferior opponents. Hansbrough is out with ankle problems, so PP has gotten his minutes, and is taking full advantage.

Patterson is a 6’9″ fourth-year pro, selected #14  (just after Ed Davis – word is the decision in Raptor-land was very close between those two) in the 2010 Draft by the Houston Rockets. PP, who’s 24, attended Kentucky, coach Dwane Casey’s alma mater. The Rox gave him 2 seasons, then moved him to the Kings.

There’s a lot to like about Patrick. He’s very fleet of foot, and uses his speed to great effect in perimeter defense, yet gets back to defend the rim. PP will mix it up under the boards with success, as his 12 rebounds against the Nets shows, can take the ball to the hole, and displays excellent technique on his jump shot. What is perhaps most intriguing is his ability to step back and hit the 3-ball. If PP is promoted , the only Rap starter who can’t shoot from beyond the arc is Jonas Valanciunas. The floor spacing, already better since Terrence Ross has shown he can be a consistent deep threat, would be improved that much more.

Of course, this may all be wishful thinking. PP, who’s slightly undersized, may not be able to handle top-rank power forwards like Blake Griffin, David Lee, Chris Bosh or Kevin Love. Some players look great against an opponents’ second unit, but disappear when the big boys step on the floor. Besides, with the way the Raps are playing, I wouldn’t change a thing. However, should a few losses coincide with further weak play from Amir Johnson, I’d be happy to see Patrick step in. I’m a big fan of internal competition; no one should ever feel his spot is safe.

What do you think, Rapture Nation? Is Patrick Patterson a starter in waiting? Comments, please.

Brian Boake is Senior Editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.

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