What’s Eating Patrick Patterson? The Houston Rockets Conundrum

Patrick Patterson, the Rockets curious power forward.

Internet, loyal DreamShake readers, fellow silent readers, I have something to confess and it is certainly something that you should not expect to see that often because it rarely happens. Yes, like Haley’s Comet this will happen once every 75 years. I was wrong. I defied my usual maxim of not investing in a rookie after their first year. Patrick Patterson ended last season with feelings of late lottery lightning having struck. Patrick stepped in for the injured Luis Scola and produced at a high rate, he hit the mid range jump-shot, he tore down rebounds, he defended well, and even netted some help-side blocks. I gave in to the hysteria and became cocksure about trading Scola saying Patterson could get near the 16-18 and 10 mark in his second season. Confusingly, this lock out shortened season seems to have harmed Patrick’s production more than it has offered him an opportunity to continue his growth and development.

After the jump we’ll take a look at where he was last season (With everyone’s favorite reading material, statistics!), what has happened in the interim (With my favorite material, baseless speculation and nominal historical analysis!), and try to figure out just what is going on with the Rockets’ 14th pick in 2010 (Open ended baseless speculation!).

Numbers

First, we should look at the raw numbers between last year and the (I know, mock me all you want) advanced stats from 2010 to 2011. In any look at a player you start with numbers in order to get a general feel as to what is going on with the player, what is their end-line production and how well are they producing with it? The stats selected are Points per game, rebounds per game, blocks per game (Three stats I find wholly relevant to Power Forwards). The chart below shows these stats in their raw form (Left split in a column) and per 36 minutes (Right split in a column).

The advanced stats selected for this were chosen in the same spirit as the raw stats with a couple of enhancements. I used player efficiency rating [PER] (An per minute production average synthesized from a multitude of stats, created by John Hollinger, average PER in the NBA is 15), true shooting percentage [TS%] (A stat that looks at 2 point shots, 3 point shots, and free throws to create a new percentage that relates to the player’s efficiency in converting their shot selection), effective field goal percentage [eFG%] (Piggy-backs off of TS% and adjusts the percentage to reflect that three pointers yield more points than a 2 pointer), total rebound percentage [TRB%] (Indicates the percentage of rebounds that player averages when they’re present on the floor), block percentage [BLK%] (the percentage of shots the player blocks when they are on the floor), usage [USG%] (The percentage of plays that end with the player in question), and win share per 48 [WSp48] (This is a nod to OAL’s favorite stat, indicates the number of wins contributed by a player, the league average is .1). The advanced stats were selected to give more depth to the numbers and give them context. As usage increases efficiency tends to drop as a natural result of increased volume, pressure, and recognition on a player.

Year

PPG

RPG

BPG

PER

TS%

eFG%

TRB%

BLK%

USG%

WSp48

2010-2011

6.3

13.6

3.8

8.3

.7

1.5

16.7

57.4

55.8

13.1

3.0

16.1

.134

2011-2012

7.6

12.2

4.2

6.8

.6

.9

12.2

46.6

44.7

11.0

1.9

17.7

.07

That’s awesome BD34, but why do his raw numbers go up but his advanced statistics show a drop off? Well, faithful reader, this speaks to the drop in efficiency being experienced by Patrick Patterson. As a rookie, Patrick was converting his shots well over half the time he was taking them and he was taking smart shots. This is evidenced in the TS% and eFG% above 55%. As a reference point for you, famed efficiency scorer Kevin Martin has a career TS% of 59.5 and eFG% of 50.5. 2010-2011 was kind to Patrick and his conversions showed as much. If he were given 36 minutes per game his production levels at that point would have made Luis Scola perfectly replaceable if projections held true. Unfortunately this season we see Patrick has had a marked decline with his usage only increasing by 1.6% of plays. In 2010-2011 Houston played to the tune of 98.5 possessions per game. This season the pace has slowed to 96.3 possessions per game. That means that last year Patrick saw about 16 plays per game and this season he is seeing about 17 plays per game when he’s on the floor. To be fair any decrease in pace will tend to weigh stats differently but to allow one possession per game to explain a drop in TS% of 10.8% and a drop in eFG% of 11.1% would be manufacturing excuses for poor play. His overall numbers are up but not without sacrificing his rebounding rate and block rate. Patrick only sees about 6 minutes more per game than he did last season (2010 – 16.7 MPG, 2011 – 22.5 MPG) and in those 6 minutes he nets one more point and less than half a rebound more. That’s an alarming decrease for an increase in playing time. If we’re going to find out what is holding Patterson back, we have to look at what has happened between last season and this season.

Why so lackluster?

June 23, 2011 the NBA Draft takes place. The Rockets select Marcus Morris, Donatas Motiejunas, and Chandler Parsons. Each of these players are 6’9" or taller and play the Power Forward position. Parsons has stepped in at the 3 and played well above expectations and therefore the impact to Patrick Patterson is non-existent. Marcus Morris was selected where Patterson was but a year later. The projection for Morris is as a 3 but there is no doubt that Morris has a more comfortable time at the 4 from his college playing days. The selection of Marcus Morris impacts Patterson in a sense. Patterson and Morris are players who conceivable could be on the floor at the same time but there is an issue in that idea. Morris is a 4 slotted into the 3 who excels in the mid-range game, Patterson is a mid range and post 4, ideally. Their games overlap in a way that doesn’t leave a great deal of wiggle room for the other. Donatas Motiejunas, although he is seven feet tall, is a power forward, a stretch power forward at that, and at his best projection is a Mehmet Okur style center. Unless Patterson has a strong mettle the drafting of Motiejunas could be nipping at his conscience. Motiejunas’ inevitable entry to the NBA and the possibility of more time for Marcus Morris will start to make Patrick Patterson obsolete in the overall scheme of things. The playing floor is only so large and Patterson’s share of it continues to diminish the more the team diversifies in who brings what to the table.

September 19, 2011, Patrick Patterson undergoes surgery to remove bone spurs from his ankle. The effects of the surgery lingered well into the season. At the beginning of the year people were asking where Patterson was and Feigen divulged the fact that he was still recovering from the surgery. Patrick had to rehabilitate the ankle throughout the season and play his way back into shape and back onto the floor. The lockout-shortened season is not doing any favors for Patterson. Lockouts require that a player hit the ground running and anything from age, physical health, and attitude can impact how a player performs in such a condensed schedule with no training camp available for many players. The Rockets brought in a new coach in a new system that may not be capitalizing on what Patrick offers as well.

December 26, 2011 the Rockets season tips off against the Orlando Magic. Patrick Patterson isn’t present but I’m using dates as transitions so just go with it. Patterson embarks on his second NBA season officially. Unfortunately, the warning I consistently level about rookies is something several others and myself cast off. Dreams of the power forward version of Clyde Drexler danced in everyone’s head. The sad reality is rookies tend to have strong showings in their first year when the expectations are particularly low. The Rockets selected 14th a place that is traditionally void of franchise talent and the Rockets also develop talent extremely well between their Developmental League affiliate (The Rio Grande Valley Vipers) and Adelman required young players sit as punishment for being young until he had no alternatives. Chase Budinger looked like a legitimate starter when he was thrust into the lineup as a starter and showed great promise off the bench and that proved to be another aberration of the rookie explosion phenomenon. After tape is developed, players are recognized as contributors, and a well-rounded opinion is formed about what a player is bringing to the table (Generally the offseason between the rookie season and the second year) a player’s contributions will diminish. There are exceptions, of course, transcendent talent such as Lebron James will always be tough to tame and the severity of slumps will vary depending on the talent level of the player. The sophomore slump is a continuous presence to be aware of as well.

So, what is going on?

Your guess is as good as mine, honestly. I have proposed a few suggestions as to why the numbers have dropped. I sincerely think it’s a combination of mental (Drafting 3 PF’s and promising to make them a 3 or a 5 doesn’t remove reality from the equation. Patterson hosted a party before games this year also that was mentioned in comments before.), physical considerations (recovery from surgery and playing back into shape and aggression is never going to be easy), and game plans (Teams know what Patterson does now, they can plan around it, isolate it, or just plain stop it). I think Patterson got more leeway once Jordan Hill was banished to Los Angeles but I don’t think it has helped shore up his game either. I look forward to you guys talking about this peculiar issue that no doubt vexes Rockets fandom.

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