If you told me Lamar Patterson would make the Atlanta Hawks prior to the 2015-2016 season, I would have pushed back in a big way. That personal angle has become something of a running joke throughout the season, but after stepping back a bit, Patterson earned his way on to the roster with an off-season of hard work and body-changing and he displayed real NBA skills during limited time on the floor with the NBA club.
For clarity's sake, Patterson spent a great deal of the season in the D-League, where he appeared in 19 games (making 15 starts) for the Austin Spurs. During his multiple stints in Austin, the now 24-year-old guard struggled mightily with his shot (25.7% from three on 3.7 attempts per game), but Patterson was largely effective in the aggregate, averaging 12.8 points, 4.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game in only 26.9 minutes.
Patterson is simply the latest example of Atlanta's willingness to utilize the D-League to their advantage, to the point where the organization strongly wants to acquire its own team for further use. Still, there is a stigma attached in the minds of fans to those players who are regularly sent to the D-League for playing time and seasoning, and Patterson hasn't been able to escape that in some circles, even with solid play.
At the NBA level, Patterson's performance was considerably less inspiring. He opened the season as a member of Atlanta's rotation (to the despair of many, including myself), and the former second-round pick managed to appear in 35 games while playing 395 total minutes. To be fair to Patterson, he was never supposed to act as a rotation-level player in his rookie NBA season, and he did not look the part of a player that fit that mold.
In 11.3 minutes per game, Patterson struggled to generate quality production, posting an ugly 5.1 PER to go along with 35% from the floor and 25% from three (42.5% eFG). His long-term projection is not as a scorer but in more of a facilitating role, and Mike Budenholzer even mentioned regularly that Patterson could serve as the primary ball-handler in something of an emergency point guard role.
There were positives to his game, and Patterson is a very good passer for his size. That plays into the belief that he could run an offense if pressed into duty, but unfortunately, the former Pittsburgh standout does not present quickness or explosiveness to profile perfectly in that role. Still, Patterson did yeoman's work on his body, transforming his physical appearance between his stint in Las Vegas at Summer League to the beginning of Atlanta's training camp. That overhaul did wonders for his chances to make the roster in the first place, and if he can continue to fine tune that area, Patterson could have a real chance at a lengthy NBA career.
It will be highly interesting to see what the Hawks do with Patterson moving forward, as he is under control with a non-guaranteed contract for the 2016-2017 season. On one hand, the organization (headed by Budenholzer) has been quite complimentary of Patterson's efforts in the past, but in the same breath, Atlanta's future is murky in other ways and if the team needed an additional roster spot, Lamar Patterson would seem to be on the short list of players to cut ties with during the off-season.
Lamar Patterson's prospects as a legitimate NBA role player remain to be seen, but if nothing else, he made significant strides over the course of 12 months, to the point where he is at least in the picture when it comes to the future.