San Antonio Spurs 2019-20 Player Previews: Patty Mills

SAN ANTONIO, TX - APRIL 25: Patty Mills #8 of the San Antonio Spurs looks on during Game Six of Round One of the 2019 NBA Playoffs on April 25, 2019 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX - APRIL 25: Patty Mills #8 of the San Antonio Spurs looks on during Game Six of Round One of the 2019 NBA Playoffs on April 25, 2019 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
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DENVER, CO – APRIL 27: Patty Mills #8, and DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs hi-five against the Denver Nuggets during Game Seven of Round One of the 2019 Playoffs (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO – APRIL 27: Patty Mills #8, and DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs hi-five against the Denver Nuggets during Game Seven of Round One of the 2019 Playoffs (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

As the seasoned veteran of the squad, Patty Mills remains the heart of the San Antonio Spurs with his leadership and hustle.

While the veteran point guard showed last season that his game still has plenty to offer, the 2019-20 season might see Patty Mills play a more limited role for the San Antonio Spurs. Simply put, San Antonio is suddenly loaded at the guard position. With the return of Dejounte Murray, substantial improvements from Bryn Forbes and Derrick White, and intriguing potential of summer-league standout Lonnie Walker IV, there may not be many minutes left for the Aussie.

Going into his ninth season with the Spurs, Mills is now by far the most tenured current member of the silver and black. With the big three  retired and Kawhi Leonard departed, Patty is the only player who has remained a Spur from the glory days of deep playoff runs and contending for championships. Despite the overload of talented guards, Mills still offers plenty of value and can play an important role during his time on the court.

As the regular season draws near, here’s what the Spurs can expect from their fiery point guard, as well as what they hope to see him improve this year.

Spurs Snapshot: @Patty_Mills@FrostBank | #GoSpursGo pic.twitter.com/FAQtxLoGtE

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) September 2, 2019

Hustle

Anyone who has watched Patty Mills play basketball knows he always puts everything he has into the game. While he’s often undersized in matchups, you can always count on Patty to fight hard through screens, hustle to get an open look and dive on the court for loose balls. Though he may not always produce big numbers, the energy the 31-year-old brings to the court can be infectious.

As one of only two members from the 2014 championship team (Marco Belinelli), the tone Mills sets through his hustle on the court for the young guns can’t be understated.

Championship pedigree and experience are often undervalued in the NBA – these factors may have been the main reason the under-manned Spurs took the more talented but inexperienced Denver Nuggets team to the brink last playoffs.

Next: Leadership & Outside Shooting

NEW ORLEANS, LA – JANUARY 26: Patty Mills #8 assist Marco Belinelli #18 of the San Antonio Spurs off the floor during the game against the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA – JANUARY 26: Patty Mills #8 assist Marco Belinelli #18 of the San Antonio Spurs off the floor during the game against the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images)

Leadership

As the Spurs begin their quest for another playoff berth next month, there are plenty of exciting things for the fans to watch out for. From explosive young talent like Dejounte and Lonnie to the addition of DeMarre Carroll, there should be plenty of thrilling moments in the upcoming season.

One thing I have noticed regarding Patty after years of watching the silver and black is something you’ll never see on SportsCenter’s Top 10. Next time you are watching a game in which Patty Mills is on the court, pay attention to when a fellow teammate hits the deck. 100 percent of the time, Patty will sprint from wherever he is on the court and be the first to help his man up from the floor and give him a friendly pat on the head.

It’s a gesture that’s so small, but telling about the kind of teammate Mills is.

Patty has not only established himself as a fan favorite, but a favorite in the locker room. After Mills became the second player in Spurs history to score 4,000 points off the bench last season, Murray commented on Instagram that Patty was his favorite teammate ever.

Bryn Forbes also had high praise for the veteran last year as he spoke to News4SA:

“That’s my guy,” Forbes said to reporters following a recent team practice. “Man, from the first day I walked in here for training camp, he was the first person who came to me and was like ‘If you need anything, come to me.'”

The value of having a guy like Patty in the locker room is hard to measure and is likely one of the main reasons he was given such a generous contract in 2017.

Spot-up shooting

It’s no secret that the biggest upside to Patty Mills’ game is his outside shooting. Last season, Patty hit a career-high 159 triples, breaking the record he set the previous season of 154. While impressive, these figures directly correlate with his increased minutes over that same timeframe due to the losses of Tony Parker and Murray.

Now more than ever, the quality of shots Mills takes will be more important than quantity. As stated earlier, Patty will probably see limited minutes this season and will likely be brought in when the offense is stagnant or needs a boost. When he is on, the ten-year veteran is capable of getting hot in a hurry and can light up the scoreboard as he continues to prove in the FIBA World Cup.

Patty is exceptional at finding space in motion to get his shot off, mostly because of his speed and quick release. If he can keep up a decent shooting percentage from beyond the arc, it might not only earn him more minutes in a crowded backcourt, but it would space the floor for the team’s stars to go to work.

Next: Issues to address

SAN ANTONIO, TX – NOVEMBER 29: Patty Mills #8 of the San Antonio Spurs plays defense against the Memphis Grizzlies on November 29, 2017 at the AT&T Center (Photo by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX – NOVEMBER 29: Patty Mills #8 of the San Antonio Spurs plays defense against the Memphis Grizzlies on November 29, 2017 at the AT&T Center (Photo by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)

Holding his own on defense

At a height of six-feet flat, Patty tends to struggle to play man-to-man defense against other taller point guards in the NBA. It’s not for a lack of effort – Mills does his best to try and hold his ground – but as the league is growing bigger and stronger at every position, his defense is becoming more and more of a liability.

As Dylan Carter detailed a couple of weeks ago for Air Alamo, Mills was tied for last on the team in defensive rating last season, with a 114. As we’ve established time and time again, Gregg Popovich does not play you heavy minutes if you are constantly beaten on defense, whether it be due to individual effort or not. Patty will need his offense to especially shine to offset his defensive struggles while on the court.

One thing that Pop may do to balance defense with offense in the backcourt is pair Mills with Murray for stretches. This would allow an exceptional defender in Murray to cover for some of Patty’s defensive mistakes while also keeping a sharpshooting threat on the other end of the court.

More from Air Alamo

Short of miraculously growing five inches or bulking up, there aren’t many things Mills can do to become the defender he needs to be to get decent minutes in the Spurs’ rotation. That said, he can still improve in some defensive aspects.

With a better defensive lineup to play alongside, Patty should look to be disruptive in the passing lanes and try and force turnovers as much as he can. Mills is still a huge threat in the open court with his tendency for hitting the stop-and-pop three and a more athletic roster overall should benefit in the open court as well.

With as much energy as Patty plays with, he definitely has the ability to keep contributing defensive intangibles like chasing down loose balls, applying pressure defense in the backcourt, and drawing charges with his quick feet.

Popovich, Team USA narrowly escape Turkey in OT. Next

If the Aussie can provide the serviceable defense he is capable of, he may just continue playing decent minutes for the silver and black.

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