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NBA Draft: Bulls Select Justin Patton on Behalf of the Timberwolves

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The Wolves wind up with the big man from Creighton.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Rhode Island vs Creighton Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Thibodeau talked about needing shot blocking and rim protection, and they are looking for it in the person of Justin Patton, freshman from Creighton. He’s a 7-footer who dominated around the rim in the Big East, particularly on offense, where he shot 80 percent around the rim. He was a terrific finisher in the pick and roll as well.

He’s a quick, agile guy who can change ends of the floor well, and should develop defensively.

Here’s some of what Josh wrote about him in the pre-draft process:

6’11” with shoes, 7’3” wingspan, standing reach 9’3”

Basic Stats (per game): 25.5 minutes, 12.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 0.9 rebounds, shot 68.4 percent from the floor, 51.8 percent three throw shooter.

There are a plethora of big men who are at the end of the draft who seem to blend into each other, their skill sets and deficiencies overlapping. It makes it very hard to figure out who is better than the other.

Justin Patton certainly fits that mold, although he seems to have a defined NBA skill set that he can grow from, as his frame is perfect for that of a shot-blocking, rim-running Center who is able to control the paint on both ends of the floor. When it all works, he looks like some virtuoso Center who has a strong offensive game that can switch out on the perimeter. When it doesn’t work, well it isn’t too pretty.

Strengths

Justin Patton looks the part of an NBA Center. He is long, with a huge wingspan and his standing reach of 9 feet 3 inches puts him near the basket simply by reaching his arms up in the air. Patton is great at rolling to the rim on a pick-and-roll, or simply slipping the screen and running to the basket. It’s easy to imagine an offensive game plan similar to what the Clippers employ that has Patton putting pressure on the defense via lob dunks. Patton was one of the best finishers in the NBA around the basket, scoring 74.8 percent of all field goals around the rim, which is the 6th best mark in the NCAA among all players with over 100 attempts.

He’s fairly fast too, with a great motor, and is often the first big down the floor in transition. Patton has a decent handle, although he lets that get him in trouble fairly often, but he looks like he could be adept at getting to the basket with some more polish. When everything is going well, he can look like Karl-Anthony Towns-lite, getting past defenders easily and making face-up shots away from the basket. He looks smooth out there and has decent vision, both passing from the perimeter and driving to the rim.

On defense, he is a good shot blocker, with a block percentage of 5.9 percent. Although for fun I did look up what elite shot blockers were like in college. Anthony Davis had a block percentage of 13.9 percent (and a BPM of 18.7). That is insane.

Patton also made 57.1 percent of his threepointers! Editor’s note: On 13 attempts

Weaknesses

A lot of Patton’s issues stem from his frame and his age. He plays young and like a player who needs to fill out. He ranks 24th out of 28 among all big men in Draft Express’s top 100 big men for rebounding percentage. Patton is athletic enough to fight on the boards, and has a good motor do to so, but often is caught out of position or bullied out of the way by bigger players. He does not have a strong base and that becomes problematic on offense and defense as he fights for position.

The other issues on defense come from a lack of defensive awareness. He can do well on the pick-and-roll, but will sometimes cheat and gets called for quite a few fouls. There are also a bevy of mental mistakes that will leave him in a bad spot, which is no surprise considering his youth and lack of experience.

On offense, there is much of the same issue, as Patton will simply try to do too much. He will get caught driving to the basket and utilizing his handle too much. His shotmaking away from the basket is extremely inconsistent and his shot mechanics have a habit of going all over the place. Patton’s 51.8 free throw percentage does not exactly inspire confidence in that improving either.

He has a high turnover percentage in the post, 19.7 percent, and does not have great footwork either. He is a project in many ways.

Timberwolves Outlook

Justin Patton looks like an NBA Center, and certainly can play like one at times, which is not exactly a need for an imbalanced Timberwolves roster. It’s hard to say too much definitively about Patton, as he really could go in any direction with his development. If his handle improves, a team can fix his shot mechanics (he does have a fairly smooth shot for a big man), his defensive awareness improves, and he puts some weight on this frame, he could be really good.

But will all of those things happen? If a few of them happen, which ones? It’s almost impossible to tell. Patton is certainly worth a lottery pick for a team that can wait to invest in a big man to see what happens.

What do you think?