Toronto Raptors Patrick O'Bryant: A Bryan Colangelo Special Project

Stephen BrotherstonAnalyst ISeptember 17, 2009

NEW ORLEANS - FEBRUARY 06:  David West #30 of the New Orleans Hornets grabs a rebound over Joey Graham #14 and Jermaine O'Neal #6 of the Toronto Raptors on February 6, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Hornets defeated the Raptors 101-92.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

On Feb. 19, 2009 trade deadline day, the Toronto Raptors sent bench warmer Will Solomon off to Boston for little used third year center Patrick O’Bryant.  Solomon hadn’t seen the floor for the past six Raptor games and O’Bryant had played for only 108 minutes all season with Boston. 

Not exactly the players media types dream about being traded on trade deadline day!*

Not just media types, fans were left underwhelmed by the Colangelo deal, too. Enduring a disastrous season to-date, fans were hoping for so much more!  But there wasn’t anyone else coming to save the Raptors’ season, and O’Bryant was left to shoulder the disappointment.

But it should have been apparent that Colangelo wasn’t making this deal to save the un-saveable 2008-09 season.  Bryan Colangelo, like two GMs before him, saw something in Patrick O’Bryant that enticed them into giving this kid (yet another) chance.

Patrick Fitzgerald O’Bryant, the ninth overall first round draft pick by the Golden State Warriors played his college ball at Bradley and his high school ball in Minnesota.  At least Patrick shouldn’t be afraid of the snow!

O’Bryant is big.  True seven-footer and over 250 lbs, O’Bryant has freakishly long arms giving him a 9’4” standing reach and a 7’5” wingspan.  This guy can put his hand in the mesh while standing on the floor.

But watching O’Bryant in college could leave one with an underwhelmed feeling.  Something was definitely missing from his game.  While Patrick could dominate his smaller college opponents, somehow he should have been doing more.

In his two seasons at Bradley, O’Bryant averaged only 24 minutes a game.  It was apparent that he just wasn’t in good enough condition to perform up to the standards of his physical gifts.

But O’Bryant still intrigued NBA GMs and the reasons were obvious.  Patrick could block shots.  He could block shots with both hands.  And even though he had no offensive game outside of five feet, O’Bryant averaged 11.6 points, to go with his 7.8 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks in those 24 minutes.

While there should be no question that O’Bryant is one of those players who would have benefited from playing four years of college ball, the lure of guaranteed lottery pick money was just too much to pass up.

So O’Bryant came to the NBA as a very raw offensive player without a back to the basket move, no perimeter game what-so-ever, an inconsistent jump-hook and a reliance on overpowering smaller college players. 

Like many big men who leave college too soon, he had a tendency to disappear during games.  And he was also in desperate need of a strength and conditioning program.

It became apparent very quickly that O’Bryant wasn’t going to fit in well under Don Nelson.  In two seasons Nelson only played him for a total of 218 minutes and not surprisingly Golden State didn’t pick up his third year option.  Looking good in the D-League just isn’t enough!

So Boston, looking for low priced talent to fill out an already very strong line-up, signed O’Bryant to a modest two-year deal. 

O’Bryant still intrigued NBA analysts and GMs as best summarized last year by Hollinger at ESPN, “an outstanding risk-reward play ... He doesn't figure to get a lot of time right away ...but considering the potential and the price this was an underrated offseason pickup.”

Unfortunately for O’Bryant, he only managed to play in 108 minutes by the trade deadline and Boston was more than happy to participate in a three-way trade that eventually netted them a future second round pick.*

In 13 games at the end of last season with the Raptors, O’Bryant played for 147 minutes. More minutes than he had played in a season for any team in his three NBA seasons.  So what did Patrick show his coaches in those whopping 11.3 minutes per game?  Blocks!  A mid-range jump shot!  He played in position! 

Hardly overwhelming but those 0.9 blocks per game in limited minutes were impressive on a team that is in desperate need of blocks.

So Patrick O’Bryant didn’t overwhelm anyone, but unlike the more exciting and energized Pops Mensah-Bonsu, O’Bryant didn’t make that many mistakes either.  And maybe the $500,000 in guaranteed money for this season came into play too?

One steps-back and looks at the awesome physical gifts that Patrick O’Bryant has been blessed with, and consider the positive features of his game from that very brief “try-out” he had at the end of last season.

And believe that O’Bryant has shown Triano and Colangelo something in the practice gym to makes them believe this long armed freak has finally begun to find his game. 

Maybe then we can see why Bryan Colangelo is giving this still very young center yet another chance.

Perhaps it’s best to look at this as a low risk, low cost, high reward project brought to us by Bryan Colangelo, one of the best GMs in the game at finding talent that other GMs have overlooked or undervalued.

Patrick O’Bryant is still an outstanding risk-reward play, at least for one more season.



For clarity and those who are interested in such things, The full three-team trade, as Sam Amick reported (via Sactown Royalty): “Will Solomon and cash comes to the Kings from Boston, Toronto gets Patrick O’Bryant from Boston and the Celtics get a conditional future second round pick from the Kings.”