2pat shakur

A quick look at what makes Patrick Patterson so effective on offense.

On the latest episode of the Raptors Weekly Podcast, Zarar asked me if “Patrick Patterson could develop into a shot-creator? The question took me by surprise, and I answered “yes” with sound reasoning in mind, yet I proceeded to muddle my point with my usual routine of awkwardness and nervousness. I’m here to elaborate on how 2Pat creates offense for others.

Patrick Patterson has been nothing short of a revelation.

In only 30 games as a Raptor, 2Pat has carved out a comfortable niche for himself on this team. His efforts appear pale in the basic boxscore — he averages 10.1 points and 5.0 rebounds in 22 minutes per game —  but his performance passes the eye test with flying colors. His shooting touch stretches defenses, it forces opposing bigs to step out to the perimeter, and his catch-and-shoot ability relieves pressure for his teammates. He’s been productive, to say the least.

Therefore it should come as no surprise that Patterson is leading the team in several individual offensive categories. He ranks second to Kyle Lowry in offensive rating (120 vs 118), and he ranks first in both effective field-goal percentage (added weighting given to three-pointers made) and true shooting percentage (factors in threes and free throws).

Patterson’s star shines even brighter in context of team-wide statistics. According to 82games, Patterson and Derozan are the common denominators in the Raptors’ top two offensive 5-man lineups (min 30 minutes played). He also leads the team in simple rating (a PER variant derived from plus-minus) at +6.1, which ranks ahead of the likes of Bosh, Wade and Lillard. The offense noticeably improves when Patterson is on the floor. Simply put, he’s a big boss dog, but you already knew that. (A Snoop Dogg reference? Yeah I had to do that).

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The offense improves because Patterson is a shot creator who is able to create looks for himself, and open the floor for his teammates.

The majority of shot-creators are perimeter players who can handle the ball — think Kyrie Irving or Chris Paul — but Patterson is the rare big-man who creates offense by facilitating looks. He’s not a fantastic ball-handler, and his passing falls well-short of “Steve Nash-ian”, yet he’s able to facilitate the offense by making things simpler for his guards.

In the podcast, I alluded to the example of Tyson Chandler, whose awareness and athleticism in the pick-and-roll makes a point-guard out of Raymond Felton (a truly impressive feat). While it’s technically true that Chandler cannot create for himself, his timing and his length in the pick-and-roll allows for the play to succeed even when paired with lesser passers (like Felton, god he’s horrible).

Along the same vein, Patterson creates for his teammates with his shooting ability.

It’s no secret that he makes his hay in the pick-and-pop, but pay close attention to his off-ball movement — he finds open spots on the floor, and he makes himself available for a pass. He sets solid screens for his teammates, and forces opponents to trap the wing. This leaves a temporary hole in the defense where Patterson sets up shop.

For example, he’s a pick-and-pop between Patterson and Salmons:

The Heat are notorious for their aggression in trapping the pick-and-roll as both Beasley and Allen move to trap Salmons. Patterson responds accordingly and alertly slips to the open spot in the middle of the floor. He receives the pass from Salmons and nets two points against one of the toughest defenses in the league. It’s a simple play for both he and Salmons to make.

Simplicity allows Patterson to blend seamlessly into the Raptors’ offense, and allows him to flourish with new teammates in Lowry and Derozan. Out of Patteron’s 123 made field goals as a Raptor, Lowry and Derozan have been accredited with 25 and 20 assists apiece. Lowry is a decent playmaker, so his total is unsurprising, but Patterson’s play has afforded Derozan the floor spacing pick-and-pop partner he’s so sorely lacked.

The Patterson-Derozan PnR is rare, but it’s a tricky proposition. For all of the attention paid to his inefficiency, Derozan is still fantastic when attacking the basket. The standard defense for Demar’s drive is to have the big man sag in the paint, but that leaves Patterson open for the jumper. For example, here’s Demar kicking it out to Patterson spotting up:

However, I’d contend that Derozan actually benefits more from Patterson than vice-versa. Defenses will probably concede the open mid-range jumper to Patterson, but an open three is a strict no-no. Therefore, when 2Pat chooses to step out the the perimeter, defenses will take their chances with committing just one defender to Derozan’s drive. For example, look how Quincy Acy (<3!!) merely shows help defense, as opposed to leaving Patterson to cover Demar on this drive:

Patterson’s shooting ability also allows Dwane Casey to stir some spot-ups into the offense. As with most other plays in Casey’s playbook, the spot-ups aren’t very complicated, and can be triggered by most guards in the NBA. On this play, Patterson sets an effective down-screen for Derozan and creates some separation between Demar and his defender. This forces Davis to temporarily hedge, which leaves 2Pat open for a spot-up.

And of course, his spot-up abilities also allows him to pull off shots like this:

In summary, Patterson doesn’t create offense by breaking down the defense with his handles, nor does he bully post-players with impunity, he simply creates looks with his awareness on offense and outside shooting ability. His career averages suggest that his outside shooting will likely cool off a bit — especially from downtown where he is shooting 10 percentage points higher than his career average — but he’s clearly established his role on this team.

Now, the only question becomes: “how much will it cost Masai to resign him?” For the answer to that question, read my previous post: All Eyez on Me: A Comprehensive Look at Patrick Patterson.