Most Pittsburgh Panthers (10-0) fans have January 27th, 2014 circled on their calendars. Why? That's when Pitt will be hosting the Duke Blue Devils (8-2) and freshman sensation Jabari Parker. I've been asked a few times now by Panthers fans what I think about Parker, in short, the guy is awesome.
Now, I normally provide a much longer explanation than that, and at some point I'll usually mention the NBA teams that are attempting to be "Sorry for Jabari". That phrase usually draws a confused response from whomever it is I am talking to...in this city.
I tend to forget that most people in this part of the state don't care about the NBA. It makes sense, Pittsburgh doesn't have an NBA team (fingers crossed), and the consensus seems to be that we never will. With that said, Pitt fans tend to maintain an interest in how former players are doing professionally.
I think everyone would agree that senior forward Lamar Patterson will play professional basketball after this season. The question everyone really cares about though is whether or not that professional opportunity will be in the NBA.
The Case For:
-Patterson could potentially play three different positions at the next level. At 6'5 and a solid 225 pounds, Lamar has excellent size for a point guard, average size for a shooting guard, and passable size for a small forward. He possesses the requisite skills to play any of those three positions (point guard sparingly), and the combination of his size and those skills will allow him to play point-forward at the next level.
- Patterson is averaging 16.4 points per game, 4.7 rebounds per game, and 5 assists per game. That speaks to his ability to produce tangible results in a multitude of ways: scoring, rebounding, and getting his teammates involved.
- Oklahoma St. Cowboys point guard Marcus Smart is thought to be the best point guard prospect in the 2014 NBA Draft. Despite the fact that Patterson isn't a point guard, he currently has an outrageous 34.1% assist percentage while he is on the floor. Smart has a respectable 23.4%, but that is still a sizable gap.
- That gap is even larger when you consider Smart has a usage percentage of 31.8% while Patterson uses just 27.1% of the Panthers' possessions while he is on the court. That is a testament to Patterson's ability to not only get his teammates involved, but to get them the ball in a position to score - a criminally underrated facet of passing.
- Patterson gets to the basket at will, and his ability to finish with either hand is impressive. He isn't necessarily explosive going to the rim; but is extremely crafty and often is able to glide by defenders instead of plowing into them and getting a charge called against him.
- Lamar only takes 33.7% of his attempts at the rim, but he converts 69.7% of the time. That is much higher than the Division I average of 60.9% which includes all players regardless of position.
The Case Against:
- Does Lamar Patterson have an elite skill? The answer to that is probably no. He is a good athlete, but not necessarily a great athlete, and I wouldn't characterize him as explosive. He would be considered a very good passer as a small forward, but might be too undersized to play the position for extended periods of time.
- His overall field goal percentage has gone up every season (25% as a true freshman, 49% currently), but I wouldn't classify him as a guy who you absolutely can't leave on the perimeter. Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Kyle Korver has made a living doing one elite thing, three-point shooting. Most NBA teams want guys to at least be elite in one category, especially when they are looking for rotation players and not starters, which is what Patterson most likely would be.
- Every Panthers team for the last 13 years has ranged from being pretty good to great on the defensive side of the ball. Every team usually features at least one outstanding individual defender and solid team defense across the board.
- Patterson isn't the outstanding individual defender on this current team; that honor belongs to sophomore point guard James Robinson. Patterson isn't a bad defender, but he won't be able to guard quicker point guards or bigger small forwards. The NBA has a dearth of quality shooting guards right now, but a majority will still maintain a speed advantage over Patterson.
- Patterson will be 23 when the 2014-2015 NBA starts next season. Conversely, Marcus Smart will be just 20-years old and Jabari Parker will still be 19. NBA teams want players who are young with a ton of potential so that they can be all-stars by the time they are 23.
- Patterson isn't going to get better once he gets to the NBA, if anything, he'd be hard-pressed to even produce at his current levels, even with the same amount of minutes. There really isn't much unrealized potential in Patterson, and that is generally a turnoff for most NBA teams.
At the very least Lamar Patterson is going to get an invite to be on an NBA Summer League team. With that said, if he continues to play this way when conference play starts, and more importantly, in any and all NCAA Tournament games, then I think he has a decent chance to hear his named called at the end of the second round in the NBA Draft.
He lacks that one elite skill, but perhaps the three great skills he has will make up for that. A contending team looking to fill a final roster spot with a minimum salary guy could certainly do worse. If I was a GM on a competitive team, I might be thinking about "Going par for Lamar" in the second round come June 2014.
- Stats courtesy of Hoops-Math and Sports-Reference.
 An estimate of the percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted while he was on the floor.
 An estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he is on the floor.