After playing all 82 games in the 2018-19 season, the San Antonio Spurs need to find a new role for Patty Mills in a loaded guard rotation.
If you thought the San Antonio Spurs had a logjam in the backcourt last year, wait until see you what’s in store for the 2019-20 season. Projected starter Dejounte Murray will return from his torn ACL at the start of the season while second-year standout Lonnie Walker IV will likely battle for minutes as a more polished and prepared player.
Furthermore, the trio of DeMar DeRozan, Bryn Forbes and Derrick White are all slotted to take steps in their development heading into another season – leaving veteran point guard Patty Mills in the dust. By all accounts, Mills is one of the most important leaders of this group for his familiarity with the organization, Gregg Popovich’s coaching style, championship-caliber intensity and unwavering dedication to the team.
Mills had a solid season for San Antonio last year, averaging 9.9 points and three assists per game on 42.5 percent shooting from the field and 39.4 percent shooting from deep. He swiftly built chemistry with the Spurs’ newest leader in DeRozan and was an impactful guide for Murray in his rehabilitation process. There’s no way around it – having Mills in the locker room is hugely beneficial to the core.
Unfortunately, his vocal leadership and helpful assistance as a backup come with a major price tag – just under $26 million for the next two seasons to be precise. The idea of trading Mills to clear cap space has been floated around by Spurs fans, our own Andrew Ites detailed the reasons to part ways with Mills in early-May, but the offseason is simmering down and the likelihood of that trade coming in the summertime has diminished.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) August 2, 2019
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Although he was never known for his defense, Mills has become a particularly concerning presence on that end of the floor because of his lack of size and strength. He’s unable to guard players other than undersized point guards with effectiveness even though he puts forth his best effort at every chance possible. Mills posted the worst Defensive Box Plus/Minus of his Spurs career this season at -2.0; the second-lowest on the team. Furthermore, his defensive rating of 114 was in a three-way tie with Marco Belinelli and Forbes for worst in San Antonio last season.
At 31-years-old, Mills will need to set his ego aside and accept a diminished role next year. This isn’t to insinuate that he has an ego – in all likelihood Mills will support his teammates from the sideline and wave his trusty towels like we’re used to – but the exciting young core and emerging talents of this team are going to overtake his minutes.
When the injury bug inevitably rears its ugly head or Pop decides to rest one of his guys, Mills will pop in and provide some signature moments throughout the year, but the playoffs proved the he’s not quite the competitor he used to be and because of that, Mills probably won’t play much.