Utah Jazz: Kentucky's Patterson benefitted from extra year

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 13 2015 10:55 p.m. MDT

Patrick Patterson, one of five Kentucky players in this year's NBA Draft, speaks to the media after a Jazz workout.     (Laura Seitz, Deseret News) Patrick Patterson, one of five Kentucky players in this year's NBA Draft, speaks to the media after a Jazz workout. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — There are others rated ahead of him on their wish list.

But — especially if their favorites, including Georgetown power forward Greg Monroe, already are gone — the notion of the Jazz taking Patrick Patterson at No. 9 overall in the June 24 NBA Draft might not be that much of a stretch.

And it certainly would fit the mold.

Patterson extended his college career at the University of Kentucky by one season, much to his benefit.

He made concise but articulate answers go a long way at the recent NBA pre-draft camp in Chicago.

And he's stretched an arguably undersized body — 6-foot-8 without shoes, 6-9 with, 240 pounds and a wingspan of just 7-1, which is 1 inch less than that of Monroe and nearly 6 inches less than the amazing 7-7 of Marshall's Hassan Whiteside — into one capable of competing with those taller and longer.

"I have no worries at all with my size going into the league, going into the next level," said Patterson, one of six draft prospects who worked out for the Jazz on Wednesday.

"If you can play, you can play," he added. "It doesn't matter how short you are. It's all about your heart and how well you compete on the court."

Besides, Patterson suggested, power forwards in the 6-8/6-9 size range never seem to have had much trouble making their mark in Utah.

"(Paul) Millsap, (Carlos) Boozer, Karl Malone — they've had great success, and they've had great point guards to go alongside them," he said. "Now that you have Deron Williams here, the sky's the limit pretty much."

At Kentucky, the sky fell early for the Wildcats, who could land five players in the first round of this year's draft.

Their season ended with an Elite Eight loss to West Virginia, nightmarishly closing what was supposed to be a dream season for Patterson, anticipated No. 1 overall pick John Wall, possible top-five selection DeMarcus Cousins, first-round round hopefuls Daniel Orton and Eric Bledsoe, and coach John Calipari.

And Patterson had to take something of a back seat to some of his high-profile freshman teammates, yielding points (his average dropped from 17.9 to 14.9 per game) and rebounds along the way.

Yet the 21-year-old Washington, D.C., native who led his Huntington, W.V., to three state championships has no reservations whatsoever about having returned for his third season in Lexington.

"All in all," Patterson said, "I think I made the right decision in the end."

During his first two years at Kentucky, Patterson played extensively with his back to the basket.

But with Cousins dominating down low this past season, that changed.

"He had to play facing the basket and had to play, really, an entirely different game," Walt Perrin, the Jazz's player personnel president and longtime scout, said after Wednesday's workout. "I think it's gonna help him in the long run."

Patterson said "my heart, and my maturity level" are what separate him from other bigs in his draft range, which could be anywhere from mid-lottery — he's auditioning for at least three teams with single-digit picks — to somewhere in the 20s.

On Wednesday, in fact, ESPN.com draft analyst David Thorpe pegged Patterson as the draft's No. 2 most NBA-ready player, second only to Wall.

And in Chicago, Perrin said, Patterson "interviewed like a professional ... one of the best we've had."

But what may help the defensively sound Patterson most is how his play — including an "ability to knock down the mid-range jump shot and the 3 as well" — has progressed over the past year.

"My offensive game has definitely improved," he said, "so I'm able to not only score in the post but also take the ball to the perimeter."

All that should be more than enough to help Patterson do his part in seeing that all five of Kentucky's soon-to-be pros leave their mark when the draft unfolds later this month in New York.

"It's just crazy," he said of the possibility that the five could go in the opening round.

"All my teammates have the capabilities," Patterson added. "They all have the will and drive to be great NBA players, and hopefully we all go first round. Hopefully we can all go top 20. Hopefully we can all be in New York City together."

e-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com

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