Sam Presti deserves a Pat on the back.
I’m loathe to start this piece by praising Presti, but it’s hard not to. At the risk of sounding like an infatuated lover, I am really impressed with the off-season the Oklahoma City Thunder have put together.
The obvious “home run” was bringing Paul George into the fold. It was a bold and brave move by the wunderkind that let Russell Westbrook know OKC is serious about contending.
In that deal though, and subsequently through free agency, the Thunder lost Sabonis and Taj Gibson – and along with it, all depth at the four spot. There were plenty of discussions around who might fill that need – and Rudy Gay was most heavily mentioned until he wanted more money than Presti was willing to commit – but in the end, Presti has found a fantastic replacement in Patrick Patterson. who was just signed to a 3-year, $16.4 million deal.
Gay was unwilling to sign for the mid-level exception, even coming off an Achilles injury and being on the wrong side of 30, and when Gordon Hayward announced he was heading to Beantown, the competition was heating up for Gay’s signature. So, in a hotly contested arms race, Presti did what Presti does – he went out and got a great value-for-money pick, ensured OKC didn’t “hard cap” themselves and addressed a liability.
In short, he made the Thunder a better team for far less money than others have spent trying to keep up with the Warriors.
Now, if you don’t know just who Patrick Patterson is, I am here to make your day.
Patrick Patterson is a former Kentucky Wildcat who was highly recruited out of High School. He played the perimeter for Callipari while DeMarcus Cousins owned the paint. He has played the past handful of seasons as a key reserve for the Toronto Raptors and (good news Thunder fans) is a career 37% shooter from long range. A valuable presence in the locker room, and quality defender who can fill the power forward role or center in some small-ball lineups – and he accepted the deal that Rudy Gay likely rejected.
In short, the Thunder found their new starting power forward on a three-year, $16.4 million deal, and he perfectly fits what they need – a floor spacer, defensively versatile and great teammate. It’s not as “sexy” as a top tier free agent signing, but it is the biggest free agent signing the Thunder have ever seen. And that in itself is big news now and moving forward.
Last season, Patterson averaged 6.8 ppg and 4.5 rpg in just 25 minutes of action. He is likely to see a bump in his minutes this season as he shares court time with Enes Kanter and Jerami Grant, and with that should come increased production. While Gibson was a terrific fit in OKC, he decided to cash in and go collect a well-earned payday with former teammate Jimmy Butler and coach Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota. He also couldn’t space the floor as well as Patterson can and was well out of OKC’s price range.
I understand if you were sad to see Taj go, and I completely understand if Rudy Gay was on your recruiting list and you feel a little bummed about it (after all I flooded his twitter to try and “encourage” his signature!) but I guarantee you that you will LOVE Patrick Patterson – or as I affectionately refer to him – 2Pat.
Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams are also going to love having someone who can keep defences honest and open up the painted area. Meanwhile, the rest of the roster has to be excited about the bounce-back OKC has pulled off.
Does this move put the Thunder back in the hunt for a top 4 finish in the West?
Not only has it made the team better by filling a clear need, it has also allowed more flexibility and creativity in the line-ups and rotations Billy Donovan can trot out depending on the opposition. Now, as opposed to last year, they match up better against the benchmark Warriors for example as they can play small, defend more universally and keep pace with the transition “shooters”.
It’s not a big-name signing, but it’s a big-time signing. And the Thunder needed that. Now just sign here Mr Westbrook……..