It came down to Ed Davis and Patrick Patterson. The Toronto Raptors held the thirteenth pick, and the decision was theirs regarding whom to select. One option: a player coveted solely for his upside - a guy who practically slept through college and woke up just in time to make it to MSG for draft night. The other: a mature, professional, tremendously hard-working junior from Kentucky - perhaps not a clone of Carl Landry, but somewhere close
The Rockets knew which player they wanted. Undersized? Mature? Well-rounded? Yup, Patterson was their guy, seemingly bred in a Rocket Red mold. The minute Davis went north of the border, the Houston war room went nuts. Is it better to be lucky than good? Absolutely - the player they wanted slipped past a few plausible destinations and fell into their laps. Zero effort (or assets) used up in the process, and drinks all around.
Patterson, as usual, took the selection in stride. He walked casually and confidently up to the podium and shook commissioner David Stern's hand as if the commish was his new boss. Everything about Patterson is all business, but in a good way. He approaches this new endeavor as if he just got hired. Step one: impress everyone. Step two: get to work. Surely, Patterson will be one of the first to practice every day. That's just the kind of person he is.
It took Patrick a little while to get to the NBA. He played three seasons at Kentucky and could have entered after his sophomore year. Compared to most, he's a veteran. Does he regret the decision to stay an extra year? Not one bit.
"Returning last year and playing with Calipari and the rest of my teammates, my decision to do that definitely was fulfilling," Patterson said. "Playing on the perimeter, improving my jump shot, being more efficient and working on my shooting mechanics definitely paid off throughout the season."
Patterson fittingly earned a degree in communication and leadership development at Kentucky. It's safe to say that he put quite a bit of practice into leading and communicating as the elder statesman on a Kentucky Wildcats team featuring freshmen John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton and Eric Bledsoe. It's clear in what Patterson is saying that he exemplifies the characteristics of a leader and professional.
"As a basketball player on the court, I want to just become one of the best and most elite players in the game - I want to be a good representative of the organization on and off the court," he said. "I want to help the organization out in any way possible to become a better team and be more respected [in the NBA]."
What does Patterson think of the Rockets? Quite a bit, actually.
"[They're] extremely talented and they have great leadership," he said. "They definitely have a great team and a city that supports them. Yao's one of the best post players down low, [Trevor] Ariza can score on the wing, and Chuck Hayes can stop anyone in the post. They are a great-caliber team with potential to win a championship.
Above all else, though, there is one thing about the Rockets that really appeals to Patterson. It's not the player personnel, or the front office, or the coaching or the fans. Well, perhaps those things matter to him, too. But there's one thing about Houston that really takes a load off of his... wallet.
No. Income. Tax. Patterson smiled the minute it was brought up and let out a sigh of relief.
"That's the first thing that clicked."
Hopefully, it's the first of many things to click. The Rockets are hoping that he can develop in the same way that Landry did. Whether or not they have plans to keep him remains to be seen, but for now, everyone is celebrating what appears to be a match made in heaven.
Welcome to the Rockets, Patrick. Couldn't be happier to have you.
(There's no way I stuttered - someone punched me in the chest.)