San Antonio Spurs: Breaking down Patty Mills’ early season performance
By Andrew Ites
With all the new pieces on this San Antonio Spurs squad it’s easy to forget about Patty Mills. How has he performed so far this season?
We’ve taken a pretty close look at nearly everyone on the San Antonio Spurs roster this year, but Patty Mills hasn’t been talked about very much amongst Spurs fans.
Mills has been extremely consistent during the past few seasons in San Antonio, and it’s been much more interesting to talk about newer players like DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, Derrick White, etc.
With all the recent roster turnover and injuries at the point guard position, Mills’ presence is more important than ever.
Let’s take a closer look at how the 30-year-old has played through the first month of the 2018-19 season:
While Patty Mills is listed as a point guard, he’s never really played that role in San Antonio.
Mills’ usage rate of 16% is lower than nearly every other player at his position as he plays more like a catch-and-shoot shooting guard than a true point guard in the Spurs’ system.
The Australian native is currently shooting 37% from downtown on 4.6 three-point attempts per game (second on the team) this season.
Mills hasn’t been very efficient so far this year with a career-low player efficiency rating of 10.6, and his true shooting percentage of 52.5% would be his lowest number since the 2014-15 season.
Mills is still very active on the offensive end moving without the ball and attacking immediately after he catches a pass, but the Spurs need him to pick up those shooting numbers if the second unit is going to improve their disappointing scoring output this year.
Mills’ role hasn’t changed much with Dejounte Murray done for the year and Derrick White missing significant time with an injury, but he must be better in that role moving forward.
Patty’s struggles on the defensive end of the floor have been the main reason why Gregg Popovich has never been able to trust him in a full-time starting role.
Mills flies around and gives great effort on defense, but his limitations in stature (listed at 6-feet tall and 185 pounds) have prevented him from ever being an above-average defender.
Mills currently ranks 66th among 90 point guards in defensive real plus-minus this season, and he ranked 73rd among 83 qualifying point guards in that statistic last season.
Without Dejounte Murray, the Spurs’ point guards have been unimpressive on the defensive end which has caused them to fall to 21st in the league in defensive rating after ranking in the top three for six straight seasons.
There’s only so much Mills can do to improve his defense, especially after turning 30 this year. However, the Spurs need better defensive performances out of all of their point guards while Murray recovers from his torn ACL.
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Mills’ performance on the court hasn’t been up to par so far this season, but his attitude and leadership may be even more important than his statistics this year.
Mills is the longest-tenured Spur on the current roster, and he’s really the only holdover from the era of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili.
No one on this team knows Gregg Popovich better than Patty Mills, and he needs to instill those values on the Spurs’ new acquisitions and young players if San Antonio is going to keep up their unprecedented level of success in the coming years.
Mills can act as another assistant coach for Pop and help him get his message across to other players that may not understand their head coach’s language or tactics.
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We’re in the midst of the most change we’ve seen in the Spurs’ organization in decades, and Patty Mills could be the key to maintaining San Antonio’s culture which has dominated the league for 20 years.