I don't mean to put down Carl Landry when I say that Patrick Patterson could develop into the better player of the two.
It is an easy comparison, admittedly. As finally evidenced in last night's win over Toronto, Patterson has bits and pieces of Landry-ness etched into his game. He is jumpy and not afraid to bang inside, but perhaps most pleasing is that he is not full of himself. As such, if there is an offensive rebound to be had, you'd better believe Patrick Patterson will be gunning for it with everything that he has got. He possesses the same hustle-or-die attitude that Landry brought to the court. Though he does not lack confidence, Patterson looks nervous here and there, nearly to the point where it appears he might shake himself out of his shoes.
But that's a good thing. I want Patrick to be nervous (he even admitted his jitters following the game). I'd rather him be wary of making a mistake than than have him bring an apathetic and indifferent mindset to the court. Mistakes are good for rookies who respond to them appropriately. All indications are that Patterson took his demotion to the D-League in stride -- he clearly responded to coaching and improved during his stint in Hidalgo -- and that's the proper way to go about it. As a result, he looks very mechanical and robotic at times, trying to do what the coaches have told him to do and be where the coaches have told him to be. But this isn't a sign of fear, only that of a student trying to get better in a whole bunch of areas all at once.
At this point, Patterson is likely to screw up and do something against the will of the coaches, sure. But you'd better believe that he doesn't need any coaching to knock someone on his face going for a loose ball. He's a talented overachiever, and if there is one thing that all overachievers have, it's confidence. Thankfully, his confidence is a controlled confidence. It's confidence in his own ability, but not to the point where it slithers into his ego. Having talked to him face-to-face at the NBA Draft, having been present for his first press conference as a pro and having seen him play during the summer and in the preseason, it's clear that Patterson does not feel that he is anywhere near his peak as a basketball player and that he's willing to do whatever it takes to get better.
That might seem like a backhanded compliment, until you realize how polished Patterson already appears to be. This, in my mind, is what separates him from Landry.
Patterson can do things that Landry spent three years working to implement into a regular season game. Chief of his advantages over Landry Year One is his jump shot. Patterson took and made three-pointers in college, and while that won't be a primary focus of his in the NBA -- at least not to start -- it proves that he is not only capable of making an eighteen-foot jumper, but that he is comfortable taking one during games as well.
We didn't see any special technical revelations from Patterson during his performance, as nothing really wowed us besides his leaping ability and intensity. He didn't do much on the block or in isolation, either, but that's because he's not supposed to yet. For him to hustle and create second chance opportunities like he did last night is the most we can ask of him right now.
A double-double is a heck of a way to start a career. The numbers may not stay consistent with that mark from here on out, but that's not what matters. I'm glad Patterson is trying hard, that he is happy to be on the court and that his head is in the right place. Those three benchmarks should make everything else come much easier with time.
(Also, Patrick: it might be time to grow out the Swagger Afro. Just saying.)