The newest member of the Oklahoma City Thunder has already suffered an injury setback before playing his first game with the team. The Thunder announced on Thursday that power forward Patrick Patterson recently underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. The projected recovery time for Patterson is four to six weeks, which gives him a chance to recover from the surgery by the time Oklahoma City begins training camp on September 26.

Patterson is just one month removed from signing a three-year, $16.4 million deal with the Thunder. Oklahoma City is now his fourth NBA team since first breaking into the league in 2010 after playing three seasons for John Calipari at Kentucky. The team was aware that Patterson struggled with a knee injury throughout much of last season, but what remains unclear is whether or not the Thunder knew Patterson would need knee surgery when they signed him. If nothing else, this explains the drop in his numbers from previous seasons.

Before the surgery, Patterson had participated in voluntary workouts with his new Oklahoma City teammates. The team’s training staff was monitoring him closely after all of his knee problems last season. Ultimately, Patterson chose to have the elective surgery now rather than wait for the season to begin and risk missing regular season games if the injury was to re-flare.

Loose Body

The Thunder have said that Patterson’s knee has no structural damage. If we are to take the Thunder’s assessment of Patterson’s knee as being structurally sound at face value, it likely means the issue is not a torn ligament or meniscus, which are two common reasons to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery. This begs the questions, why surgery and why now? Several factors may have come into play. Arthroscopic surgery can be performed as a way to address knee pain or as a method of diagnosing the etiology of knee pain.

Arthroscopic surgery is also performed to remove what is referred to as a loose body or cystic lesion. None of which are considered structural knee issue.The good news is that arthroscopic knee surgery without structural pathology isn’t considered all that invasive or serious compared to other types of knee operations.

In the aftermath of the surgery, Patterson will likely undergo physical therapy and rehabilitation to help him regain full range of motion in the knee. The Thunder have said that he will be reevaluated in four to six weeks. Barring any setbacks, Patterson should get the go-ahead to participate in training camp without restrictions at that point, which will help him avoid missing any games during the regular season.

Aside from joining a new team, this is an important season for Patterson. At age 28, he should be in the prime of his career, yet he was primarily a bench player during his four seasons with the Toronto Raptors, before signing with Oklahoma City last month. After the Thunder traded Domantas Sabonis in the Paul George trade last month, the door is open for Patterson to claim a starting spot with the Thunder this season.

Patterson’s competition for the starting power forward spot in Oklahoma City’s lineup appears to consist of Jerami Grant and Nick Collison. Grant has freakish athleticism but is yet to produce consistently in the NBA, averaging just 5.5 points per game with the Thunder last season. Collison is entering his 15th season with the Thunder, but is far past his prime and remains in Oklahoma City more for his veteran leadership than his production on the court.

If Patterson’s recovery from arthroscopic knee surgery goes well, a consistent starting position is there for the taking. In fact, if Patterson can return to the days before his knee was a problem, he could end up having a breakout season with his new team.