Taking a flier on Justin Patton is good business – following his path to the OKC Thunder

OKC Thunder: Justin Patton (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
OKC Thunder: Justin Patton (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
OKC Thunder, Justin Patton #24 of the Minnesota Timberwolves (Photo by David Sherman/ACNBAE via Getty Images) /

Early career hampered by injury:

Patton got hit hard by injury immediately upon arriving into the pros. During his summer workouts with the Minnesota Timberwolves, he broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot. Patton underwent successful surgery to repair the fracture and initially, the Wolves were optimistic he would make a return to the court and varsity lineup. Instead, when he returned he appeared in just one game with the main club and spent the majority of his time in the G-League (38 games).

The following season Patton broke the same bone (fifth metatarsal) this time in his right foot. Once again, the youngster had to undergo surgery to repair the fracture.

What this all points to is Patton appears to be injury-prone, particularly his feet and there is a concern this will be a chronic condition.

That said, if we look back through history many big men have experienced similar setbacks and come out the other side with no further issues.

Brook Lopez, for example, had similar foot injury issues as well as ankle problems early in his career. During the 2011-12 season, Lopez appeared in just five games prior to being shut down for the season due to a stress fracture in his foot.

At the time some wondered if the Bucks were just being overly cautious and perhaps using the opportunity to help their tanking efforts. But then in the 2013-14 season, Lopez broke the same bone (fifth metatarsal) as Patton in his right foot.  Again, after just 17 games he missed the remainder of the season.  Since the second fracture, however, Lopez has averaged 75 games in his last five seasons showing no ill effects.

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Joel Embiid suffered a similar fate to Patton when he missed his first two seasons because of a broken foot that refused to heal. OKC Thunder fans also remember Kevin Durant missing time due to a Jones fracture.

The Thunder will need to take precaution with Patton and make sure their medical and conditioning teams work closely with the center to avoid future problems. But unlike Lopez, Embiid, and Durant this isn’t a high paid roster situation. Rather, with an economical salary, OKC can afford to take a chance on Patton. And, if his foot injuries are a thing of the past, well then the Thunder just nabbed a solid center who could work his way into becoming a part of the teams future core.