Patton Tapped for Frontcourt Depth
At this stage of the season, the Jimmy Butler trade feels like it might as well have happened another lifetime ago, right?
But certainly now, it’s important to keep in mind that there was another player acquired in the 76ers’ blockbuster swap with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
With Joel Embiid (left knee) and Boban Marjanovic (right knee) already ruled out for Thursday’s game at Oklahoma City, the Sixers have tapped Justin Patton to provide additional depth to the front line.
Patton, the no. 16 pick in the 2017 draft, was in the midst of recovering from an injury of his own - he had right foot surgery in the fall - when the Sixers landed him in their November 12th deal with Minnesota.
The 21-year old received clearance to practice with limited and controlled contact at the end of January, and was subsequently assigned to the Delaware Blue Coats, the Sixers’ NBA G League affiliate. His first game with the Coats was a week and a half later.
Depending on the Sixers’ needs against the Thunder, the 7-foot Patton could maybe find himself in an NBA regular season contest for just the second time in his young career.
Jonah Bolden and Amir Johnson are the only other players expected to be available Thursday who this year have logged traditional reps at the five spot. The Sixers could also very well opt to go small at times, like they have done in recent games, and use either Mike Scott or Ben Simmons in the five role.
Nevertheless, Patton plans to be ready
“Just be another asset on the team, be what I can be, be whatever Coach needs on the bench, bring energy, and do whatever I’ve got to do if I get into the game,” Patton said Wednesday following practice in OKC.
His lone NBA appearance to-date was last April.
In seven outings with Delaware, Patton has averaged 11.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.3 steals, and 2.4 blocks in 18.2 minutes per game. He’s finished in double-figures four times, including a 20-point performance in the Blue Coats’ February 20th victory over Fort Wayne (the Indiana Pacers’ affiliate).
Another highlight from Patton’s stint with Delaware came February 13th against Capital City (Washington Wizards). He posted 12 rebounds, and five blocked shots.
“I think he’s got tremendous potential,” said Brett Brown. “It’s good to have him with us.”
“I want to show I’m supposed to be here, coming from my injuries to show I still have got it,” Patton said of his opportunity to, for the time being, join the Sixers.
Having to possibly bang with big, physical NBA-level bodies, however, presents another challenge entirely. Oklahoma City, occupants of third place in the Western Conference, runs out a big man stable that boasts the burly Steven Adams, and the athletic, at times explosive Nerlens Noel.
“It’s the NBA,” said Patton, “so every single night, you’re going to have somebody good. It’s just about effort coming from my end.”
Way back in the fall, during the jam-packed press conference at the 76ers Training Complex that introduced both Patton and Butler, Elton Brand described Patton as a “bright, young talent.”
“We’re excited to watch his growth and development in the coming months,” the Sixers’ general manager said.
Fast forward to the end of February, and here we are, with Patton in position to potentially contribute.