At the start of NBA free agency, the Oklahoma City Thunder were flying high after acquiring superstar Paul George from the Indiana Pacers for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. But a few days into free agency the team lost starting power forward Taj Gibson to the Minnesota Timberwolves to the tune of $28 million over two years. With Gibson reunited with his old coach Tom Thibodeau, the Oklahoma City Thunder had a major hole at the power forward spot, with no depth at all at the position outside of Jerami Grant.
There was a lot of discussion and speculation as to who would fill the four spot for the Thunder, with Rudy Gay being the most likely candidate. Unfortunately, neither side was able to come to an agreement; according to ESPN's Royce Young, Gay simply wanted more money than what was being offered by Oklahoma City. But in the end, general manager Sam Presti was able to find a great power forward in Patrick Patterson, who signed a three-year $16.4 million contract with the team.
With Rudy Gay refusing to sign the contract that Patterson likely signed (despite the fact that he tore his Achilles tendon last season) and the fact that his name is now heating up with the fact Gordon Hayward is heading to Boston, the Thunder did themselves a huge favor in avoiding signing Gay. So with Gay likely getting bigger contract offers from teams like the Miami Heat, the Thunder went out and got themselves a solid value player for the money they are spending with Patterson.
Patrick Patterson is a former Kentucky Wildcat that was a perimeter player on a Calipari team lead by John Wall and Demarcus Cousins. He has played the last few seasons with the Toronto Raptors as a key reserve that was a jack of all trades for the team. In his four seasons with Toronto Patterson had averages of 7.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and shot at a 37.9% clip from beyond the arc mostly as a reserve player.
While this is not the sexiest signing that the Thunder could have made, it is the most sensible. Patterson is able to immediately step in as the team's starting power forward and provide a combination of spacing and defense to allow Russell Westbrook to operate on both ends of the floor. With Andre Roberson reportedly back in Oklahoma City, after the Patterson signing here is Oklahoma City's projected depth chart so far for next season:
- PG: Russell Westbrook/Semaj Christon
- SG: Andre Roberson/Alex Abrines/Terrance Ferguson
- SF: Paul George/Doug McDermott/Josh Huestis/Kyle Singler
- PF: Patrick Patterson/Jerami Grant
- C: Steven Adams/Enes Kanter
The starting unit alone puts Oklahoma City back into the top four of the Western Conference rankings, with the Golden State Warriors a distant first and the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets within reach. If Oklahoma City wants to gain even ground with the Spurs and Rockets their next step should be to find a suitable backup point guard such as Tyler Ennis or even Norris Cole. They should bring up Dakari Johnson from their G-League affiliate the Oklahoma City Blue, who has been killing it in the Orlando Summer League with averages of 19.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game.
But most importantly the team needs to work on an extension with MVP point guard Russell Westbrook and should have a much easier time after making moves to build a much-improved roster around him. Patrick Patterson will keep defenses honest this season, allowing Westbrook and new addition Paul George to have an easier time on offense. The signing of Patterson may not be the biggest-name but it is one of the best moves possible the Thunder could make to solidify themselves as an elite team in the NBA's Western Conference.