The Pittsburgh Panthers have done well so far going 3-0 to start the season however one thing is strangely missing, Lamar Patterson’s scoring.
Head Coach Jamie Dixon has said that Patterson ‘makes others on the court better,’ and that is true, however as a player, he seems to be getting worse.
It feels like yesterday when Patterson was named MVP of the CBI. His play improved and with him coming into this season as a junior, I was excited to see how he would raise his game.
Not that it is much of a barometer, but Patterson dominated summer league and he was named MVP of that as well. He led his PGT Trucking team to win the league and he was scoring at will.
When I asked him about his domination of Summer League at Greentree, Patterson said, “I’m just playing my game and it’s just working for me right now. In the CBI I just played my game and I’m going to continue doing that.”
Patterson had hoped going into the season to, “keep leading these guys and I expect them to lead me. We’re a family.”
As an extention to those quotes, the other Panther that impressed me in summer leagues was Trey Ziegler who before his injury provided a nice mix of scoring and provided some defense. Ziegler had a minor injury during the event that forced him to miss the final two weeks. Ziegler’s exhibition struggles were well noted, but he seems to have mostly found and understood his role on this team performing well in two of the team’s three games coming off the bench. Ziegler will provide some scoring and now is an emergency point guard as well.
Patterson has surprisingly been in a rut. Let’s be clear for a second though. The Dixon quote came following the Blue-Gold Scrimmage, and he is a very unselfish player, however eventually Patterson needs to just pull the trigger and score some points.
I don’t think it is that teams have planned more for Patterson as he seems almost either really nervous to put a shot up or just wants to help his teammates. If I am a scout right now, I see three guys on this Panthers team that could pose consistent scoring threats and that is Tray Woodall, Talib Zanna and J.J. Moore. Moore reminds Dixon of Sam Young, but to me I see more Gilbert Brown. Moore will come in one night and dominate and then the next night you’ll be wondering if you are watching the same player. Woodall is the most consistent on the team and his defense has truly improved. Zanna’s midrange game that he worked on this summer has really worked out.
That brings us to Patterson. Going into the season, I thought he was the best all-around player on this Panthers team but thus far he does the small things but to fans kind of feels like a minutes eater. I am unsure if it is just the gameplan for Patterson to pass. I do not see why that would be a possibility since Dixon knows that Patterson came into the season as the best if not top two scoring option. Currently Patterson is last of the Panthers 10 players in scoring, averaging just 2.7 points per game.
It is unbelievable that this is happening if you ask me and the only explanations I can offer are injuries being hidden or lack of confidence with the likely party being Patterson.
Yes the Panthers are 3-0 right now and they should continue to flourish with a relatively easy non-conference schedule. The Panthers are a much better team than they were last year. They have pride in their defense, are motivated and have actual leadership. Patterson and Woodall are the leaders of this team and that seems pretty clear to me.
With all of that being said though, if Patterson cannot put the ball in the basket come conference time this team is doomed. The Panthers should finish it in the top half of the Big East, however that was based largely on Steven Adams doing better than he is now, the return of Woodall after what they saw last season and a seemingly refreshed and motivated Patterson. So far only one of those are happening as Adams adjusts to the pace of play.
There is a bigger sense of team unity with the Panthers this season but if this is Patterson’s ‘game’ then this could be another long season. This team needs him to score if they want to win. Call Durand Johnson the x-factor as much as you want, the true x-factor is if Lamar Patterson can score. If they do, then Panthers fans could be in for a real treat this season.