The case for OKC Thunder to start Patrick Patterson at power forward

OKC Thunder, Patrick Patterson (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
OKC Thunder, Patrick Patterson (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /
3 of 4
OKC Thunder
OKC Thunder /

Patterson’s case:


2Pat is a great stretch forward. He’d be the perfect fit for the starting lineup considering the four players who have cemented their position as starters are Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Paul George, and Steven Adams. Out of those 4 players, only Paul George shot above 30 percent from three-point range; his three-point percentage was a team-leading 40.1 percent. The other 3 didn’t even shoot above 30 percent from beyond the arc.

In my article on Jerami Grant last week, I said this:

"Jerami Grant could be the Thunder’s new starting power forward. If he improves his 3-point shooting and manages to drain threes with any sort of consistency, he would be a perfect fit."

That’s a big IF. Jerami Grant takes a much smaller amount of perimeter shots than Patterson does AND he is nowhere near as proficient at them. For his career, Jerami Grant has only shot above 32 percent from deep once. His 3-point percentage during the 2017-18 season was an abysmal 29.1 percent. The OKC Thunder would suffer from a visible lack of spacing and shooting should Jerami Grant start. The chances of him improving his 3-point shot enough to become a threat from beyond the arc are slim.

By comparison, Patterson shot a career-best 38.6 percent from three last year. It’s also worth noting that he shot an impressive 43.8 percent from deep after the all-star break.

Patterson will get more minutes next season, which means that his 20.7 touches per game (ninth on the Thunder in ‘17-‘18) will increase. That increase in playing time will result in Patterson’s rhythm and shooting stroke being more potent in the 2018-19 season.

Team-first play

2Pat is a team-first player. He sets lots of good screens, as shown by him being third on the team in screen assists per game.

He will also take the occasional charge, muscle up, and pass up open shots to get the best shot available. His attitude toward team basketball makes him a great addition to the starting lineup.

As a guest on the Lowe Podcast, ESPN reporter Royce Young talked about why Patrick Patterson should be the starter. This is a sample of what he had to say:

"[Patterson] was going to start when they signed him a summer ago and then they traded for Carmelo Anthony and things changed quickly on that front.  Patterson checks a lot of the boxes that Billy Donovan wants in a starting power forward in a lot of the ways Carmelo Anthony wasn’t able to. First of all, when you’re playing heavy minutes alongside Russell Westbrook and Paul George, you’re not going to see a lot of shots and you have to be okay with the fact that you might play 22 minutes and take four shots in a game. For Billy Donovan, as long as all four of those shots are threes or corner threes—that’s something that Patrick Patterson is pretty good at—that’s fine. Patterson is a very good ball mover: one dribble, hand it off, move it to the other side of the floor. He can do a lot of the simple things."

Patterson takes a “catch it, shoot it or move it” approach to the game, which falls in line with the up-tempo offensive approach the OKC Thunder want to take in the upcoming season. The numbers are proof of that. Patterson held onto the ball for just 1.32 seconds per touch last season, which was the 12th quickest among NBA players who saw action in more than 10 games.

On the Thunder, Patterson’s 0.43 dribbles per touch were more than only Steven Adams and Andre Roberson. Both numbers are a sign of Patterson’s quick decision-making as well as his willingness to move the ball around, which is something the Thunder struggled to do last season with Carmelo Anthony in the starting lineup.

Patrick Patterson doesn’t command the ball as much as Grant which means he complements his court mates. I’m not saying Grant can’t do much without the ball. It’s just that Patterson can have more of an impact on the game even when the ball is not in his hands.


Patrick Patterson is a versatile defender who can guard positions one through five. A smart player who can switch when he’s called upon, which makes him a great fit for the Thunder’s defensive scheme.

Being able to jump out onto the perimeter and be sharp with communication will be crucial in the 2018-19, and that is something Patterson is pretty good at.

Regardless of whether Patterson or Grant starts, the Thunder’s starting lineup will be one of the very best defensive lineups in the NBA.