2014 NBA Free Agency: What will the Spurs do with Patty Mills?
Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports
With one of the biggest free agent classes since “The Decision” taking place this offseason, where does Patty Mills rank among the big names?
The pesky Australian was a bench stud for the Spurs all season long. After trimming down in the offseason and showing how committed he was to the organization, it was Patty’s time to shine. His regular season stats were incredibly impressive when you consider he spent most of the season coming off the bench.
18.9 MPG, .464 FG%, .425 3P%, 10.2 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.8 APG, .8 STL
These stats could increase drastically if he were to sign on as a starter with another team for the 2014-2015 campaign. Looking at his per/36-minutes stats, we get a better idea at what Patty might look like as a first choice player.
19.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.6 STL
While you can’t necessarily expect these exact stats to come into fruition, it still shows that he has a decent chance to become a solid starting point guard.
With Spurs players, it’s also important to look to see how they performed in the playoffs, not just the regular season. Gregg Popovich likes to experiment with different lineups during the regular season—both to see what he’s got and to rest his older players. You can tell what he really thinks of players by looking at who plays big minutes in the important games, and how they play when the get the chance.
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Although Mills’ playoff stats weren’t eye popping, it’s his style of play that coaches admire. He is the spark plug that the Spurs need when they slow down offensively, and while Manu Ginobili is brought off the bench at around the same point in every game regardless of the score, it is Mills that Coach Pop relies on when the game isn’t going the right way. He may not be the tallest or strongest guy on the court, but that doesn’t stop his pedal to the metal mentality. Right when he steps onto that court, Patty is in full throttle mode.
Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Let’s take a minute to break down Mills’ offensive and defensive play.
On offense, Patty is a shoot-first point guard, but that’s not to say that he doesn’t move the ball around well. He is a great fit in Pop’s system because he can still pass with precision and plays great off the ball. Patty’s true calling is as a shooter though, and he can really shoot the lights out of the ball. He was a top 10 three point shooter percentage-wise, but he can still hit the mid range and get to the hoop.
Mills is also a great ball handler; he may not be flashy but he does a great job of protecting the ball. He uses his speed and quick dribbles to blow past even some of the best defenders. For example, in Game 5 he was able to put the ball on the floor and fly by LeBron on the baseline for a pretty reverse layup.
One aspect of Patty’s game that is overlooked, except maybe by Spurs fans, is his energetic defense. He does a great job of using his body rather than his arms and really irritates opposing players. His speed makes it hard to dribble by him and his height allows him to swipe at dribbles and scoop up loose balls.
He is one of the best full-court defenders in terms of applying ball-pressure or even causing turnovers on inbound passes. He gets into the player’s face and will do anything to deny them the ball. His ability to disrupt players with his harassing defense leads to many offensive fouls and he does a great job of sacrificing his body and setting his feet to draw charges.
His defense often leads to breakdowns for the other team’s offensive possessions and can knock opposing players out of rhythm.
Patty is a momentum builder (for the Spurs) and momentum killer (for everyone else) with his spark off the bench; whether he comes in to knock down three pointer after three pointer like he did in his 17 point performance in Game 5, or take an offensive foul or make a steal and go coast to coast to end an opponents run. The man may be little but his impact is colossal.
This is what will make him such a hot commodity in free agency. If I were to rank all the free agents, I would put Mills in the top 20. Although it might be towards the end of that top 20 list, this is an incredibly stacked group of free agents.
Whether the Australian decides to sign with another team for a starting position and a bigger, long term contract, or decides to come back to the Spurs to defend their title, the 25 year old Australian native will be receiving plenty of calls this summer. If you’re a Spurs fan like me, then we hope his final decision will be to put his silver and black jersey back on and continue his great run with the Spurs.
**All stats from NBA.com