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2014 NBA Draft Preview: Lamar Patterson

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

With the NBA Draft on Thursday, now is as good a time as any to officially put together a preview on Lamar Patterson.

The Pitt forward is really in a position to be drafted on the strength of a strong senior year. Heading into last season, the idea of Patterson as a potential NBA Draft pick seemed far-fetched.

Early on, Patterson seemed to fly under the radar. Eventually, though, his performances became too difficult to ignore and he earned some national recognition by both the media, and in terms of winning awards and being considered for others. By season's end, he was even an All-American Honorable Mention.

The big question heading into the season was if he could lead the team after the departures of Tray Woodall, J.J. Moore, Steven Adams, and Dante Taylor. Patterson not only proved he could become the unquestioned leader on offense, but he really put together some superhuman efforts at times.

In Pitt's first two big tests of the season against Texas Tech and Stanford, Patterson poured in a combined 47 points in leading the Panthers to two wins. There were double double near misses against Duquesne (18 points and eight rebounds) and Penn State (16 points and nine rebounds) in two in-state rivalry games. There was a 30-point game against Cal Poly.

But the impressive thing was that Patterson didn't slow down once the conference season hit. Patterson averaged nearly 23 points a game in the Panthers' first three ACC contests against North Carolina State, Maryland, and Wake Forest. A few games later, he scored 28 on the road against Maryland. Three games later, he had 25 against Miami. He had 30 points and seven boards in the season finale against Clemson.

In fact, Patterson actually averaged more points in conference games (18.2 points per game) than he did in the Panthers' weak non-con slate (16.8) during the regular season. Despite the stronger competition, Patterson actually scored more in once the ACC schedule hit. Over the course of the year, statistically, he actually stacked up as well as just about anyone in the conference.

There were a few duds along the way, but overall, Patterson was better than expected. To get over 17 points with nearly five rebounds and just over four assists per game was really a better scenario than most could have envisioned.

The thing that made him stand out is really his numerous contributions. Patterson was arguably the best passer on the team, making any number of spectacular assists, and even led the team in that category. His 4.8 rebounds per game were second on the team and he even developed a decent three-point shot for a forward, making nearly 40% of his attempts. Simply put, he just does a lot of different things on the court.

A big complaint of Patterson were his frequent disappearing acts in the first halves of games. That's certainly valid, but the thing that could be his biggest obstacle in getting to the NBA is that he's in between positions. In college, it wasn't a stretch for him to play small forward. But in the NBA, with teams throwing out guys with significantly more size at that position, he's undersized there. At 6'5", he has the size to make for a decent shooting guard, but I'm not sure he has the quickness to defend the league's guards. Patterson was a capable defender against other forwards in college, but it's really hard to see him slowing down the likes of James Harden or even aging stars like Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade.

Where he fits in is really a tough call.

His best chance to make it may be in selling himself as a versatile player. If he shows he can adequately defend taller players, he can play small forward. Developing a handle and even selling himself as a guy that can come off the bench and play some point guard in a pinch would help. And proving he can consistently knock down shots would also interest teams looking for him to play some shooting guard. There's a lot to be said for versatility and if he can prove that he's capable of wearing multiple hats, Patterson just might find an NBA suitor.

In the end, Patterson's chances of getting taken in Thursday's draft look a bit slim, but not entirely out of the question. Despite early projections that had him being taken, he has slipped in most mock drafts over the past few months. As I wrote earlier, though, if he impressed even one team during workouts, that may have been enough. But even if he doesn't get selected, it's a pretty safe bet that he'll be representing some team in the NBA's Summer League if he doesn't head straight to a league overseas.

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