Because the preseason exists for the diehard rather than the casual fan, there were a handful of question marks up in the air as the Atlanta Hawks closed their exhibition slate with a loss in Detroit on Friday night. Two such uncertainties came in the form of the "second" starting wing alongside Kyle Korver and the 15th spot on the roster. While Friday night did not singularly determine these battles, both appear to be quite clear at this point based on deployment choices from Mike Budenholzer.
The verdict? Kent Bazemore is your starting "small forward" and Lamar Patterson is your 15th man... if the organization chooses to keep 15 players.
Bazemore did not appear on Friday night, and while an uninitiated observer may see that as something of a detraction from his profile, it is anything but that. The talented and springy left-hander has started five games during the preseason, including something of a "breakout" performance with 20 points (on just 10 shots) against the Memphis Grizzlies earlier in the week. Budenholzer elected to leave much of his "core" in Atlanta for this relatively meaningless contest, but while Bazemore made the trip for emergency purposes, his restful evening says quite a lot about his standing.
Much like Bazemore's status, nothing changed for Lamar Patterson on Friday night, but as the season nears, his spot is as secure as it could be. Heading into the preseason finale, Patterson was averaging 14.3 minutes per game in five appearances, and while that may not seem significant, he was the only non-roster invitee averaging more than seven minutes of court time per game. Beyond that, the Hawks released the player, Terran Petteway, who was seen as Patterson's chief competition earlier in the week, and Patterson responded with a very nice game (31 minutes, 18 points, 6 assists, 4 steals) against the Pistons.
It must be said, though, that while Patterson's place in the pecking order is assured when compared to the rest of the training camp invites, there is the (slight) chance that the Hawks could elect to carry only 14 players. Because of Patterson's ties to the organization as a former draft pick (and thus, his contract situation), that would come as a surprise, and when Atlanta chose to bring in little to no real competition following the retirement of Jason Richardson, Patterson's path to the roster was paved.
Long-time readers would note that my opinion of Patterson as an NBA prospect isn't as high as some (an opinion that remains, by the way), but I'll cop to the fact that I did not see him joining the roster a few months ago. Still, it would be a surprise to me if the Hawks doled out a guaranteed contract to Patterson even while keeping him on the roster, and the 15th spot could be used for versatility while deploying the former Pittsburgh swingman in the D-League at times in 2015-2016.
Kent Bazemore looks for all the world like a starter for the Atlanta Hawks and Lamar Patterson looks like a full-blown member of the Atlanta Hawks. Both assumptions can be confirmed in the coming days, with the Hawks set to announce the regular season roster in advance of Tuesday's opener, but for now, we can speculate with relative safety.