OKC Thunder return to contender status with addition of Patrick Patterson

Patrick Patterson
CLEVELAND, OH – MAY 1: Patrick Patterson /

The Patrick Patterson signing while not as sexy as the Paul George trade is equally important in returning the OKC Thunder toward title contention.

Clearly Sam Presti is on a mission to return his Thunder into title contention and the signing of Patrick Patterson is yet another move in the right direction.  Perhaps that statement sounds absurd. However it’s no more absurd than the fact Patterson is the biggest free agent signing in the Thunder’s 9-year franchise history.

On the heels of Taj Gibson electing to leave for Minnesota, Presti wasted precious little time in replacing him with Patterson. Digging into the semantics, it’s hard not to view this signing as an upgrade on many levels. First of all, Gibson’s deal was for a reported $28 million over 2 years (or $14M per year), whereas Patterson comes at a relative steal for a 3-year, $16.4 million deal ($5.4M/year).  Moreover, the fact is, at less than half the cost Patterson is a better fit for the Thunder.

Patterson better fit than Gibson:

The typical excitement which is associated with a big free agent signings is understandable. For example, adding Chris Paul to the Rockets was met by wide spread awe and an automatic consensus the Rockets  became instant contenders. Personally, that feeling didn’t resonate with me until P.J. Tucker was added to the mix.  Tucker gave the Rockets a bonafide defensive presence, who when added beside Ariza and Capela gives them three (four if you count Paul) defenders who can be on the court at game end.

The trade to bring Paul George to the Thunder, albeit ranked higher in my mind, simply because Westbrook was in dire need of a cohort. Someone who could ease the constant need for Westbrook to control the game, score, create for others and ultimately win in the clutch moments.

Similar to the move by the Rockets to add Tucker I view the signing of Patrick Patterson by the Thunder.  In fact, I’ll go further and call this signing even more important. There is the obvious fit of Patterson as a 2-way player. Moreover, Double P’s ability to be a perimeter sniper will be a welcome addition to the squad who entered the offseason in desperate need of shoring up that gaping absence on the roster. Yet, there are a myriad of reasons why the addition of Patterson changes the entire dynamics for OKC.

George Prefers to Play Small Forward:

Remember this point when next summer rolls around. Patterson’s signing may well be the reason Paul George decides to remain in Oklahoma City next season. Bold statement, right?

Well consider this fact; when Paul George was asked to play more power forward in Indiana, he loudly complained about his disdain for having to get beat up against larger players. Coincidentally, not long after this request George began to publicly spout his disenchantment. With the addition of Patrick Patterson to the fold that issue is moot.

Patterson offers a stretch four who is used to playing critical minutes. He’s played a key playoff role and will force opposing units to defend him.

 Patterson Checks Off Several OKC Needs:

Critics will point to Patterson’s penchant for being a streaky shooter. The reality is he tends to start each season a little slowly prior to falling into a groove. The difference this season was he sustained a knee injury and never quite recovered to full health.

Patrick Patterson is a capable 3-point scorer knocking them down at a 37.2 percent efficiency. He’s even better from his favorite corner spot where he shoots 41.0 percent.

But, his true benefit is his defensive prowess. Patrick Patterson possesses an extremely high basketball I.Q.  Often the intangibles he brings to the court don’t show up on stat sheets.  If you’ve watched many Raptors games, you’re probably well aware of Patterson’s plight. That’s because he’s been tasked with covering up Jonas Valanciunas’ short comings on defense. In fact, the Raptors are said to be shopping JV, likely because Serge Ibaka and Tucker echoed those sentiments.

Sure, Patterson hasn’t been a huge rim protector or rebounder these past 3.5 seasons. None-the-less what he does provide is stellar. Plus, while he was covering up for JV’s inability to defend the pick and roll he made his opponent’s lives miserable. Specifically, the players Patterson guarded shot 6.9 percent worse against him. And, mark my words, in the final 5 minutes he’ll get you the key block or rebound which results in the victory.

Considering his defensive prowess playing alongside Valanciunas, the prospect of him playing alongside Steven Adams should have Western opponents nervous. Furthermore, he’ll be able to provide the same defensive assistance for Kanter he delivered for Valanciunas. And, when you factor in his floor spacing it’s conceivable Kanter could recognize higher offensive production as well.

Made My Top 5 Free Agent Wish List:

As noted in my recent 5 free agents who address OKC Thunder perimeter scoring:

"That said, it’s probably best not to go by Patterson’s stats alone to judge his potential. Consequently, his 6.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 37.2 percent perimeter efficiency don’t tell the entire story.  Playing the majority of his time in Toronto alongside Jonas Valanciunas he had to cover up for much of what the center couldn’t do defensively. Examination of  his on court rating shows the only consistently played Raptor who had a better defensive rating was PJ Tucker. He had the highest on court offensive rating (113.4) and was second in plus/minus (+10.2) on court differential. Fred VanVleet was first, but played in just 37 games.  As a result, these ratings were mirrored in his off court ratings.Ultimately, Patterson checks off several boxes with his 3-point scoring, floor spacing, defense and leadership. That said, while his statline may seem lacking to the average fan, NBA GMs are well aware of what he can deliver."

Why Patterson may well be OKC’s X-Factor:

As Sam Presti tweaks the OKC Thunder with a view to moving back into contention here’s why Patterson is key.  Rolling back to two seasons ago when the Thunder were 1 game shy of making it back to the finals, the reason was mostly tied to the issues their length caused for the Warriors. Granted, Kevin Durant is now part of that Warriors’ squad, but with Patterson consider the lineup which Donovan can utilize at game end.

Point Guard: Westbrook – 6’3″ vs  Curry – 6’3″ (and that’s a generous listing)

Shooting Guard: Roberson – 6’7″ vs Thompson – 6’7″

Small Forward: George – 6’9” vs  Iguodala 6’6″

Power Forward: Patterson – 6’9″ vs Durant 6’9″ ( short changes KD’s true height)

Center: Adams – 7′.0” vs Green- 6’7″

The initial scan of this potential closing lineup showcases OKC as having the edge. Recalling the issues Golden State had two seasons ago with OKC’s length in 2016  this lineup basically offers the same opportunity.

Note: this of course assumes Andre Roberson is re-signed

I’m Coming Clutch Lineup:

Additionally, the presence of George and Patterson will force opponents to extend out to the perimeter. Suddenly, Adams can’t be collapsed upon in the paint by multiple opponents which also allows Roberson to drive and Westbrook to work in the middle ground.

Defensively, imagine this quintet in the clutch and suddenly you’ve got a long lengthy, athletic versatile 5-man rotation who can battle with any team – even those Rockets or Warriors!

More from Thunderous Intentions

Arguably, Paul George may have been the best offseason acquisition, but Patterson punctuated Presti’s true genius in terms of fit and price. Don’t be surprised if his addition allows OKC to finish among the league best on both sides of the court.

Nor is it wise to assume Presti has finished tweaking the roster.  Face it, he’s not just making aggressive adjustments in order to get Westbrook to sign on the dotted line. Rather, he needs to ensure a deeper playoff run. OKC need to be demonstrative regarding their desire to remain relevant and title contenders. That will go a long way to ensuring Paul George pushes OKC to the top of his free agency short list.

Sill unanswered is whether Alex Abrines, Doug McDermott and Jerami Grant can show discernible growth. The youngsters ability to take those steps will bolster the Thunder’s depth. That, and either adding a veteran point guard or at least one capable of maintaining leads when Westbrook sits.

Regardless of what further roster tweaks occur, adding George and Patterson returns OKC to the West’s upper echelon conversation.  Are they title contenders? Only time will tell.

What is known — exactly one year from the worst day in OKC Thunder history the franchise has reason to be optimistic again. That, and Thunder Nation sure is anxious for the fall to hurry up and get here already.