In advance of the 2017 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops will be breaking down a wide variety of players that could be available for the Atlanta Hawks at either No. 19 or No. 31. The series will stretch throughout the month of June and today’s installment focuses on Creighton center Justin Patton.
After redshirting his first season at Creighton, Justin Patton exploded onto the NCAA scene last season and was one of the most efficient scorers in the country (68.4 FG%, 69.2 eFG%). As has been discussed at length, this draft class is loaded with young big men with varying levels of skill. The one thing that might separate Patton from many of his peers is that he has very solid hands, which is an encouraging indication that he might really be able to round out the rest of his offensive game at some point. But he has a long way to go. He is your classic project big.
Patton runs the floor hard, has above average quickness for a true center and demonstrates the ability to catch and finish in transition. He is a willing rim runner and works to establish early deep post position in the offensive half court. He is very capable operating in the high screen action, he sets solid screens and has good feel when he rolls to the rim. He does not have a pick and pop game but the potential is there.
He has a ways to go in general as a shooter (51.8% FT), but the release point is consistent and that is not a bad place to start. The arc and rotation are extremely inconsistent, but that can be worked on given the release point can probably go untouched. I think he might just need to learn how to develop rhythm as a shooter. He looks to me like a player that always played with the ball in his hands, attacking off of the dribble, before arriving at Creighton.
In the other areas of his offensive game he has decent tools. He looks very comfortable in the triple threat position and his dribble is nice and low and close to his body. He has a quick first step and knows how to use a jab step to create separation. Most of his turnovers came when he was playing in the post. He is not likely to develop a back to the basket game, but that is being largely phased out of the NBA at this point . His raw skills suggest that he might be able to develop a more robust and versatile set of skills in the offensive pick and roll.
He never stops moving on offense, even if he is not always in the right spot. Overall he does have a pretty significant way to go, but I think that he will eventually be able to generate acceptable offensive production playing at the “dunker position” and in the high pick and roll, which would satisfy almost every NBA team.
Patton might not ever be anything better than average as a rim protector, but he might end up being the best pick and roll defender among the centers in this draft class. Like Ike Anigbogu, he knows how to close out on perimeter shooters without over-running the play, which is a little suprising because Patton is more of a fiery type of competitor while Anigbogu has a more cerebral approach to the game.
Given his frame, it seems that Patton would be more explosive than he is, but he used his red-shirt season to add 20-25 pounds of bulk, so perhaps his body just needs more time to adjust. He is quick on his feet, which looks great when he is defending on the perimeter for a guy his size, but his other physical limitations really show up in the rebounding department (his counting stats in this area are a little misleading).
He seems to have a pretty consistent natural preference to play with finesse. But to develop as a potential starter at the next level he is going to have to become more comfortable with physicality and learn to compete in tight space without getting pushed around.
Fit for the Hawks
Offensively, I love what Patton could become working in the high screen action to initiate the half court offense. His solid hands means that he should be able to catch and move the ball in both pick and roll and horns action. And the offensively challenged Hawks should put a prime on any player that has serious upside in transition, they need all of the easy buckets they can get.
Defensively, I think Patton should be able to play in a high switch scheme and should be able to develop as a help defender in more basic schemes. His agility and the ability to defend under control in space should also mean that he should be able to perform very well in a scheme that relies heavily upon defensive rotations. (Note: the Hawks defense allowed more corner three point attempts than any team in the league last season.)
In all, Justin Patton could be a great prospect especially if he can land with a team that possesses a track record of strong player development. But Patton is not a player you draft as to get value during his rookie contract. He is a player you draft and develop and aim to get value from his second contract, which should be a consideration for how high of a selection you might be willing to use to acquire him.