Justin Patton wasn’t a name on a lot of people’s radars before last season. The 7-footer, who is soon to be 20 years old, from Creighton broke out in his sophomore season after redshirting his freshman year. He finished last season averaging 12.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, a key contributor for the Bluejays. Badger fans recognized his talent early last season when he finished with 10 points and 7 boards, shooting a smooth 5/6 from the field against Wisconsin. As discussed in this CBS Sports video, Patton was not a highly scouted player during his junior year. Creighton was early to notice his talent though, and at the time were his only offer. He quickly committed. As he grew as a player, as well as in stature, more schools started to see what Patton was bringing to the table. Showing loyalty, Patton stayed committed to the Bluejays and the kid no one wanted just three years ago began making everyone pay.  He faces a similar situation entering the draft. While he has some buzz, a team is going to have to fall in love with his natural ability and he will have to once again make a name for himself.

Strengths

Patton is extremely athletic for his size. He is a center who will fly around on offense, an absolute terror running the break and in the pick and roll. Using his size and athleticism, he gets inside to score with good moves and handles for a big man and high level skill above the rim. Along with his athleticism, Patton brings a solid shot that might only get better, while it shouldn’t be expected for him to nail three pointers in the NBA, he did finish 8/15 from deep last season. It will take some work, but a deep shot is something that teams could help him try to develop. Even if he isn’t a dangerous three point threat, Patton can still knock down shots from 12-14 feet routinely. While he doesn’t have any definitively refined skills at the moment, the raw potential and ability to move on the court are still attractive in today’s NBA, and teams in the middle/late first round will be sure to give him a look.

Weaknesses

As exciting as raw potential is, Patton is still just that. He’s unpolished. He may need time to develop and bulk up, although that’s never scared the Bucks before. His size could prevent him from being a solid rebounder and any kind of defensive presence in his first year. He isn’t physical enough at the moment and rarely gets to the line, he averaged 1.3/2.5 free throws per game last season.  While he is a good ball handler for his size, he holds on to it too long and allows the ball to get poked away or gets caught in bad situations. He has the traits to be more of a skillful and swift big man than a brute force in the paint, but that’s not in his post-game yet. He’s going to have to add a post move or two to be a real threat inside.  Patton has all of the natural gifts that one could ask for but a good handful of skills still need to be sharpened.

First Year Expectations and Fit

With most teams the expectations for Patton would be that he isn’t going to play very much in his first season and will probably see D-League time. The Milwaukee Bucks aren’t most teams. It’s almost as if Milwaukee has a tall skinny kid quota that they have to meet every season, and so far it’s been successful. In all seriousness, the Bucks are not afraid to see how someone with natural ability grows in the NBA lifestyle.  It’s hard to see him playing a lot of minutes, especially early in the season, the defense and rebounding just won’t be there. Perhaps as the season goes on they will find ways to use him sparingly and see just how well the big man can move, and if he can find a rhythm.

Career Expectations

Any pick after the lottery is difficult to gauge since all the tools need to come together and there has to be a fit, for every Giannis there are a thousand Shane Larkins. With someone as raw and moldable as Justin Patton, expectations can run the gamut from a low floor to a sky high ceiling. In Patton’s case, if his tools never come together or he goes to a bad situation where he can’t grow he could get stuck in D-league purgatory or Europe for his whole career. If he’s able to make slight improvements to his game and works for more rebounds he can be Brendan Haywood with a better shot. Should he be lucky enough to find success and his work ethic is through the roof, and the potential becomes a reality he can be Anthony Davis-lite. The likeliest of all of these scenarios is somewhere in the middle. Patton has experience going from a relatively unknown player to a star in a short time; NBA fans should be excited to see what’s in store for this kid from Creighton.

 

 

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