Patrick Patterson

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Thunder unload stars for all the right reasons

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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

So many teams spent this summer trying to create star duos. The Lakers (LeBron James and Anthony Davis), Clippers (Kawhi Leonard and Paul George), Nets (Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving) and Rockets (James Harden and Russell Westbrook) certainly succeeded.

Meanwhile, the Thunder already had a star duo in place… and disassembled it.

Oklahoma City became the first team in NBA history to trade two reigning All-NBA players in a single offseason. Why did the Thunder take the unprecedented step to move Paul George and Russell Westbrook?

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
  • 2021: Most favorable of Rockets (top-four protected), Thunder and Heat first-round picks
  • 2021: Second-most favorable of Rockets (top-four protected), Thunder and Heat first-round picks
  • 2022: Clippers first-round pick
  • 2023: Heat first-round pick (top-14 protected for three years then unprotected in 2026)
  • 2023: Swap rights with Clippers first-round pick
  • 2024: Clippers first-round pick
  • 2024: Rockets first-round pick (top-four protected)
  • 2025: Swap rights with Rockets first-round pick (top-10 protected) or Clippers first-round pick
  • 2026: Clippers first-round pick
  • 2026: Rockets first-round pick (top-four protected)

That’s an incredible collection of resources. Before anyone even knew a rebuild was underway, Oklahoma City got a huge head start toward its next era.

Not at a bad time, either.

The Thunder had stagnated post-Kevin Durant. They won in the high 40s and lost in the first round the last three years. Westbrook was aging. The supporting cast was expensive, especially considering the luxury-tax repeater bill. There was no clear way forward.

The Clippers offered a lifeboat. To entice Kawhi Leonard to sign, they traded five first-round picks and two first-round swaps for George. L.A.’s desperate was Oklahoma City’s gain. Suddenly, the Thunder had assets and a direction.

They traded Jerami Grant to the Nuggets for a top-10-protected first-rounder. Then came the dramatic, era-ending move. Oklahoma City worked with Westbrook to send him to Houston, securing another couple first-rounders and first-round swap rights.

Of course, a large part of the Thunder’s return was taking the burdensome contract of Chris Paul (three years, $124,076,442 remaining). But it’s not as if Westbrook’s contract is desirable, and his runs a year longer with a $47,063,478 salary in 2022-23.

Paul is also still a good player. So is Danilo Gallinari, whom Oklahoma City got from the Clippers to make the salary match in the George deal.

For all their effort to tear build for the future, the Thunder have a team that isn’t much worse presently. Paul, Gallinari and Steven Adams fit well together. More than a few interesting role players could fill the gaps. If everyone stays healthy and if Oklahoma City wants to compete, this group could fight for a playoff spot.

Those are big ifs, though. In their new phase, the Thunder bought out Patrick Patterson and let Alec Burks out of his deal so he could sign with the Warriors. With the same opportunity to back out, Mike Muscala (1+1 minimum) stuck with Oklahoma City. The Thunder also re-signed Nerlens Noel (one year, minimum) before pivoting, but I like that value in any situation.

If Paul and Gallinari avoid injury, Oklahoma City might stay in the race. But it’s easy to see the Thunder wanting to boost the value of their own first-round picks.

Oklahoma City did well to delay the incoming draft picks until years later, when the Clippers and Rockets might not be as good as they are now. That allows a great opportunity to rebuild on someone else’s dime while avoiding dispiriting tanking. Or the Thunder could tank themselves and really stock up on draft capital.

After years of competing, Oklahoma City was short on prime young talent. The Thunder have a few players with potential, including No. 23 pick Darius Bazley, but no real standouts beyond Gilgeous-Alexander, who came from L.A. in the George trade.

The rebuild is just beginning. A step back after a decade of stellar play will be difficult. But considering the chance of maintaining a playoff level next season while securing this influx of assets, Oklahoma City put itself in much stronger position.

Offseason grade: A

Clippers agree to one-year deal with veteran stretch four Patrick Patterson

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The Clippers know what they want to do at center: Ivica Zubac will start games and Montrezl Harrell will come off the bench behind him and be a force of nature.

With those two, the Clippers need guys at the four who can space the floor. JaMychal Green will start at the four and provide that spacing, with Moe Harkless can fill some of that role as well.

Veteran stretch four Patrick Patterson agreed to a buyout with the Thunder a couple of weeks ago to clear out his path to the Clippers. Now that deal is done, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

That is a veteran minimum contract, as expected.

Paterson played a limited role for Oklahoma City off the bench last season as he continues to try and get right following knee surgery a couple of years ago. He played in 63 games and averaged 3.6 points per game when he got on the court. That said, he’s a solid veteran presence and he can shoot the three still, hitting 33.6 percent from deep last season.

The signing is a bit interesting because the Clippers could use a third center off the bench (Patterson played 13 percent of his minutes last season there but he’s not a five) and another, more traditional backup point guard (to play behind Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams). That said, Patterson is one of the better veterans still available and the Clippers want the floor spacing at the four.

Thunder sign 2017 No. 16 pick Justin Patton for reported $700K guaranteed

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Justin Patton was drafted No. 16 just two years ago.

Players selected that high are rarely available in free agency so quickly.

The only other recent one was Georgios Papagiannis. The No. 13 pick in the 2016 draft, Papagiannis got waived by the Kings during his second season.

Patton started his career with the Timberwolves then got traded to the 76ers during his second season in the Jimmy Butler deal. Philadelphia waived him late last season to sign Greg Monroe for the playoffs.

Now, the Thunder are adding Patton, who was deemed a top young talent just a couple years ago.

Royce Young of ESPN:

That’s a surprisingly large guarantee for Patton. So much has gone wrong for him since being drafted.

He has played just four games, breaking his foot before both his rookie and second seasons. The NBA has also gone away from limited centers like him.

But for a minimum contract, this is a low-risk bet for Oklahoma City.

The Thunder had to sign someone else after buying out Patrick Patterson. That replacement player was always going to push them into the luxury tax. They have until the final day of the regular season to get out of it. They surely will, whether that involves waiving Patton’s partially guaranteed contract or some other method.

This guarantee indicates Patton will likely make the regular-season roster. Paying Patton $700,000 not to make the team would only increase the challenge of escaping the tax.

Report: Patrick Patterson surrendered $1.2M to leave Thunder for Clippers

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The Thunder are a taxed-out team willingly taking a step back and looking to trim costs.

The Clippers are early championship favorite and play in a desirable L.A. market.

No wonder Patrick Patterson wanted to move on. And no wonder Oklahoma City let him.

Patterson agreed to a buyout with the Thunder and will reportedly sign with the Clippers.

How much did he surrender to make that happen?

Bobby Marks of ESPN:

Patterson’s salary was $5,711,200. He’ll get $2,331,593 from the Clippers. With the $3.5 million giveback in the buyout, he’s down $1.2 million.

But as Marks said, the Clippers offer Patterson an opportunity to establish value entering free agency next summer. He’s the most archetypically sized stretch four on a strong roster.

The Thunder were $4,307,532 over the luxury-tax line. By reducing Patterson’s guarantee by $3.5 million and stretching the remaining amount, they get out of the tax.

However, Oklahoma City now has just 13 players. Signing someone else for the full season would put The Thunder back into the tax. They could skirt roster-size-minimum rules (essentially, 14 players) by signing someone to an unguaranteed deal and waiving him every couple weeks. Or they make another move to trim payroll.

Report: Patrick Patterson agrees to buyout with Thunder, signing with Clippers

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Two years ago, it appeared the Thunder got a steal by signing Patrick Patterson for the taxpayer mid-level exception. But Patterson’s knee surgery the same summer was a warning sign that should’ve been heeded. Patterson had a couple underwhelming seasons in Oklahoma City.

Now, both sides are moving on.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Thunder are $4,307,532 above the luxury-tax line. Patterson’s salary was $5,711,200.

I wonder whether he relinquished enough to get Oklahoma City out of the tax.

A buyout will provide at least some financial relief to the Thunder. They face the repeater tax and will almost certainly dodge it before its assessed the last day of the regular season.

Patterson will get a minimum salary from the Clippers ($2,331,593). Assume he gave up at least that much on his Oklahoma City buyout.

The Clippers have a few primarily small forwards who can play power forward – Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Maurice Harkless. L.A. also has a couple bigs who can play either center or power forward – Montrezl Harrell and JaMychal Green.

Patterson will provide a different element as a bigger stretch power forward with defensive versatility. If the 30-year-old is healthy enough.