Lamar Patterson isn't your typical NBA rookie in that he was drafted with the 48th pick of the 2014 Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks and acquired in a draft night trade by the Atlanta Hawks. He spent the 2015 season playing in Turkey before returning in time to compete with the Hawks summer league team. Since draft night, Patterson has been viewed as the longest of long shots. He was a hardworking player coming out of Pittsburgh but with no discernable skill that gave you confidence that he could succeed at the next level. Conventional thinking suggested that he was a nice guy to have around, but didn't really project as someone who could actually earn a roster spot.
Good thing for Patterson was that he didn't subscribe to conventional thinking.
After a successful stint in Las Vegas, Patterson came to training camp looking to secure the team's final roster spot. While it initially looked like Patterson might face quite a bit of competition, he quickly separated himself from the pack and secured his place on the Hawks' opening night roster.
Despite earning his way onto the Hawks, Patterson was still overlooked by many including myself who figured he would ride D-League train until the team needed to open a roster spot. However, it was a major surprise to everyone when Patterson opened the season in the team's rotation while Tim Hardaway Jr looked on from the bench.
Patterson drew praise from head coach Mike Budenholzer for the way that he approached the game on and off the court. He has shown that he has a high basketball IQ and has the versatility to play either wing spot along with some spot duty at point guard. He played in 25 games from November to December before he started to lose time thanks to a prolonged shooting slump.
As Patterson faded, Hardaway Jr emerged and that has limited his on-court opportunities during the second half of the season. Atlanta has utilized the D-League as an opportunity to get Patterson on the court and he has continued to flash a strong overall game averaging 17.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 5.7 assists on 42 percent shooting from the field.
Patterson's biggest strength is his passing and his overall understanding of the game. He worked really hard on his body after being drafted and that paid for him this season. He will enter the offseason needing to improve his jump shot where he struggled in what limited opportunities he has had so far this season.
Nothing is guaranteed for Patterson beyond this season but it probably wouldn't be smart to simply cross him off as an option for the Hawks next season either. They clearly liked him early on hence the draft night trade to acquire him and then opted to deal Justin Holiday when the team needed to open up a roster spot for the stretch run.
Patterson's versatility may be his biggest on-court tool but it is his resiliency that might be his most valuable trait.