While much has been made about who has been missing from the Atlanta Hawks' rotation so far this season, there has not been enough about the guy who has actually been playing. When training camp began, Lamar Patterson looked like a hopeful to claim the Hawks' final roster spot, but he surprised everyone when he opened the season as one of the team's top wing options.
"He plays with a kind of poise/understanding of where everybody is and making the right decision, making the right play," Mike Budenholzer said when asked about Patterson. "He's not out of control. He seems, so far to make a lot of good decisions. Defensively he is competing and he has some strength and toughness to him and he gets some loose balls, steals and rebounds. You put that all together and you have somebody that you feel comfortable with on the court."
Patterson has been a mainstay in the rotation so far playing right at 20 minutes in each of the first three games. He's averaging 5.7 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists while shooting 50 percent from the field and from three-point range. He has also shown a knack for getting to the free throw line where he is currently third on the team averaging 2.7 attempts per game.
As nice as his offensive game might be, it is his play on the defensive end of the court that will ultimately keep him in the game. Patterson might not be quite as long as someone like Justin Holiday, but he is stronger and has shown so far that he understands what the Hawks are trying to do defensively.
Patterson's story is a great one and further proof that the Hawks mean what they say when they talk about constant competition in practice. Atlanta dealt a first round pick for Tim Hardaway Jr and gave a fully guaranteed contract in free agency to Justin Holiday.
I don't think anyone really could have saw this coming. I wrote in this very space a week ago that the worst case scenario for Patterson would be to ride the D-League train until January when the Hawks would be forced to make a decision on his contract. I added that the best case would be for him to get into the conversation for playing time along with Hardaway and Holiday. Who knew at that point he was already ahead of both?
Patterson's story is great and one that should be talked about more. A former second round pick comes to camp not just looking to make the team, but to make his mark. The NBA season is long and at some point Hardaway and Holiday are likely to get opportunities to play. However, for now at least, Patterson has seized his opportunity with two hands and doesn't look like he wants to let it go anytime soon.