A statistical look at Patrick Patterson

Patrick Patterson rises for the jumper over Kenneth Faried (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

I hate small sample sizes. They force assumptions that often prove incorrect as the size of the sample expands. Five games is not enough to pass judgement; it is a little more than 5 percent of an NBA season. I’m not sure how many games fit the bill, but it’s safe to say that it is more than seven preseason games and five in the regular season.

In case you missed our lively discussion on the Sacramento Kings’ lineup, you can check out this week’s Cowbell Kingdom Podcast here. It is a discussion that hinges on a sample size that is too small to truly evaluate, but spirited nonetheless.

While passing judgment on Michael Malone’s starting lineup this early in the season is a fool’s errand, there are a few issues that we can try to resolve by looking at historical data. Especially with starting power forward Patrick Patterson who is off to a dreadful start to the season.

Assumption: Patrick Patterson should stop shooting 3-pointers

There is a reason that Patterson is starting over Jason Thompson at power forward. In theory, he fits better in a starting lineup that includes DeMarcus Cousins and Greivis Vasquez.

With Cousins chained to the post, Patterson’s long-range shooting should stretch the defense, giving the big fella more room to operate. He is also similar to Ryan Anderson, whom Vasquez played with last season in New Orleans.

The fact is Patterson is better than a 25-percent shooter from the perimeter that we have see through the first five games of the season and whether he is hitting his shot or not, the threat of his ability does the trick.

The hope is that Patterson will wake up and start hitting from the perimeter, but there is an issue with the data when it comes to projecting who Patterson is as a player. Last season, the former Kentucky Wildcat hit 51 of his 132 3-point attempts. 38.6 percent is a quality percentage for a stretch four, but those 51 makes represent the entirety of Patterson’s career 3-pointers.

Before the 2012-13 season, Patterson had attempted a total of five 3-point shots over two seasons and had not made one. So the question must be asked, is 137 career attempts over three years a large enough sample size to say that Patterson’s a quality long-range shooter?

A quick look at shot distribution tells a little more of the story.  During the 2012-13 season, Patterson hit a combined 43-for-104 (41 percent) from the corners.  He struggled above the break, especially from the left side.

Patrick  Patterson 3pts 2012-13

Again, considering the sample size, Patterson is just 4-for-16 overall from long range, but his shot distribution tells part of the story.  Through four games, Patterson has taken a total of three 3-pointers from the baseline, missing both.  He is 4-for-13 (30.8 percent) shooting above the break, which is slightly better than the 28 percent he shot from that area a year ago.

Patterson 2013-14 updated

Assumption: Patrick Patterson has improved as a rebounder

The Sacramento Kings currently rank 26th in the league in both defensive rebounds and total rebounds. In 25.4 minutes of action, Patterson is averaging 5.2 rebounds per game, with 4.0 of them coming on the defensive end.

Unlike 3-point shooting, there are three seasons of rebounding data to compare with Patterson’s current numbers. For his career, Patterson averages 7.1 rebounds (2.7 offensive, 4.4 defensive) per 36 minutes, compared to the 7.4 (1.7 offensive, 5.7 defensive) per 36 minutes he is currently averaging. The raw number of 7.4 rebounds per 36 minutes is sustainable and he may even be able to increase that number. The coaching staff has emphasized to Patterson the importance of improving as a rebounder.

But a further look into Patterson’s rebounding numbers shows an anomaly that might prove difficult for him to keep up. Through 187 career games, Patterson’s defensive-rebound percentage was just 14 percent. Through the Kings’ first five games, that number has jumped to 22.5 percent, which is near elite level in the NBA. It’s hard to imagine that number holding up over an 82-game season.

Conclusion

Through five games, Patterson has struggled on the offensive end.  According to the numbers, he is trying to be a player that he is not.  The Kings need a sharpshooter from the baseline to open up the floor for both Cousins and Vasquez.  As of now, teams are beginning to double-team Cousins and clog up the Kings’ offense.  Sacramento needs the improved rebounding numbers, but not at the expense of what Patterson does best.

These issues have a way of figuring themselves out and Patterson is one good game away from breaking out.  If that game doesn’t come soon, then Malone will have no choice but to go to someone else to get the job done.

Statistical support courtesy of NBA.com/Stats.

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About: James Ham

James Ham provides coverage through news analysis and in-depth interviews with Kings players and staff. James is also one of the producers behind the award-winning, independent documentary "Small Market, Big Heart". James graduated UC Davis with a degree in history and is happily married with two children.