The San Antonio Spurs list 18 players on the roster heading into training camp, and Air Alamo will break down each of the current players, their strengths, weaknesses, chances to make the roster and expectations for the 2015-16 NBA season.
At long last, the power rankings have reached the players who are fixtures not only on the roster but in the rotation. First up is backup point guard Patty Mills.
Who Is He?
Mills played two seasons for St. Mary’s College and earned first-team All-West Coast Conference both years. As a sophomore, Mills was a volume shooter. He launched 15.6 attempts per game—7.6 of which came from long distance. The school retired his No. 13 jersey in February 2015.
The maybe-not-quite 6’0″ point guard declared for the 2009 NBA draft, and the Portland Trail Blazers selected Mills 55th overall. He spent parts of two years with Portland, temporarily went to China during the lockout and ultimately returned to the United States, signing with the Spurs a few months later.
Spurs plug in a patty mills into the system & just keep rolling along.
— Mike Rice (@mikerice6) February 19, 2014
However, Mills’ first year-plus with the franchise wasn’t an immediate success. Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News notes Gregg Popovich said Mills didn’t play because he was “a little fat[butt].”
Once the Australian dropped some weight, though, he became a pivotal piece of the second unit. Since the beginning of 2013-14, Mills has averaged 8.9 points on 39.4 percent clip from long distance.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The biggest reason Mills established himself on the Spurs roster was his three-point shooting. It seemed fitting Mills capped his breakout season with a quartet of triples during the series-clinching Game 5 in the 2014 NBA Finals.
With that being said, Mills is a streaky shooter. Right before the 2015 playoffs, Mills battled through a 3-of-23 stretch from beyond the arc then connected on 16 of 28 during the postseason. His biggest strength—and again, the reason Mills is in the league—can sometimes be his weakness.
Regardless, the 27-year-old is also a relentless bundle of energy. Per NBA.com, no player traveled at a faster average speed than Mills in either 2013-14 or 2014-15. That constant effort slightly helps atone for his defensive deficiencies.
Mills isn’t a terrible defender, but he’s not much better than average. San Antonio has done a decent job putting Mills in position to succeed and put up with a rough defensive outing as long as he’s contributing offensively.
What to Expect in 2015-16
Mills, for probably the final time, will complement soon-to-retire veteran Manu Ginobili in the backcourt of the second unit. Mills will occupy the same role as the perimeter specialist, perhaps with more shooting responsibilities now that Marco Belinelli moved on to the Sacramento Kings.
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Unlike last year when he was working back from shoulder surgery, Mills is entering the season healthy. His three-point percentage will likely improve from a disappointing 34.1 mark last year.
Fortunately for Mills—but maybe unfortunately for the Spurs—there’s no major threat to his minutes deeper on the roster. Cory Joseph was a realistic replacement last season, but Ray McCallum isn’t quite on that same level.
Mills is safely rooted into San Antonio’s rotation and should log between 18 and 22 minutes per night during the 2015-16 season.