The most valuable ability an athlete can possess is availability. The history of sports is a minefield of maybes. Upsets, blowouts and surprisingly close-calls all occur due to injuries, suspensions, or one player’s focus being elsewhere.
So when any newcomer has early success, the league waits. Anyone can have a good game, a good week. But does it survive after the league’s seen enough of that player to adjust? Does it endure when that player is judged against the marathon of a full season, rather than an isolated sprint here and there? If that player is Marcus Patterson, the answer is an emphatic “yes.”
An American who played in England’s National Basketball League before joining Portimonense in Portugal’s I Divisão de Basquetebol, Patterson averaged 37 minutes a game (Portuguese games are 40 minutes), tops on his team and fourth in the league. His jumper is easily repeatable whether he’s open or contested because his mechanics are smooth and sound. At 6’4” and 200 pounds, he has the quickness to get to the rim and the strength to finish through fouls.
Patterson led Portimonense with 22 points per game. His scoring drew enough attention to open up playmaking for others. The American created chances for teammates through posting up and pick-and-rolls. Patterson is the rare right-handed player who looks even more comfortable going left. Combine that with ambidextrous finishing at the rim and opponents must account for multiple threats whenever he’s out there. And because he’s out there for 93% of the game, defenses must deal with the physical and mental stress of always having to account for all he can do. Patterson shot an impressive 52% from the field and nearly 80% at the foul line while finishing third in the league in scoring. That wears defenses down and, over time, opens things up for teammates.
To be that prolific while maintaining efficiency is rare. Patterson managed to on a team that struggled with scoring: Portimonense ranked 18th among 28 teams at just 63 points per game. That means the rookie was responsible for one-third of their points. Patterson accomplishing all that while also leading the team with averages of nine rebounds and two steals shows real two-way impact, another reason why he finished seventh for MVP and was named to the league’s 2nd Team and All-Import Team.
Covid-19 reminds us daily how little control we have. All we can focus on is what we’re able to control. Patterson showed a remarkable command of a new league in a new country in his first season there. If he re-signs with Portimonense, they’re a contender for promotion. If other teams pursue him, they do so knowing what he brings, even in new situations. No matter what differences in culture or officiating or style of play he’s exposed to, he’s coming to play, to help in all kinds of ways. With everything else Marcus Patterson brings to the table, that availability may be his most valuable trait.