The San Antonio Spurs are close to reaching the breaking point, so why haven’t they leaned on the veteran Patty Mills more often?
As a fanbase, San Antonio Spurs fans are a pretty blessed bunch. Over the past two decades, we’ve hardly ever had to endure extended stretches of bad basketball. When the Spurs have struggled they’ve quickly found a way to turn things around and get back to being the team that we all know and love.
That’s what’s made this season so incredibly frustrating. There simply isn’t a clear answer to the many problems plaguing the Spurs. They’re not moving the ball like they used to, have struggled to shoot from three, and the mighty defense is a shell of what it used to be. They simply haven’t looked like the Spurs. It’s time to make a change.
Gregg Popovich was resistant to switching up his starting lineup through much of the early parts of the season. Even as the Spurs starting group consistently struggled it took Pop a while to make adjustments. He’s relented lately, inserting Derrick White as the starting point guard. But there’s another lineup change that should be made.
It’s time for Patty Mills to take over as the Spurs other starting guard alongside Derrick White and DeMar DeRozan. After an impressive preseason, Bryn Forbes has objectively been a disaster as a starter this year. Meanwhile, Mills is quietly having a career year and could be contributing a lot more than he has been.
Mills has been one of the few bright spots for San Antonio this season. He’s nailing three-pointers at a career-high 44.8 percent rate and shooting the ball more than ever. His impressive performance from behind the arc has helped him set career-high marks for field goal attempts per game (8.5) as well as overall field goal percentage (48.4 percent). Put it all together and you have a player averaging a career-best 11.6 points per game in his 11th season in the NBA.
Mills has always been known as a spark-plug offensive contributor, but he’s holding his own on the defensive end as well. His 106.2 defensive rating is fifth-best on the team and he’s averaging a career-best .9 steals per contest.
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He’s not an outstanding defender but he’s better than the Spurs other guards at the moment. At the very least he would communicate and give consistent effort, something that cannot be said about other current Spurs starters.
Inserting Mills into the starting lineup would give San Antonio a stronger three-point presence, would be a defensive improvement over Bryn Forbes, and give the veteran Mills a chance to shine and take this career year to even greater heights.
If things don’t turn around for this team soon, Spurs fans will have to find something else to cheer for other than a playoff appearance. Why not a 50-40-90 Club membership for Mills? It’s doable. Mills would have to shoot 50 percent from the floor, 40 percent from behind the arc, and 90 percent from the free-throw line while also meeting the minimum requirements of 300 field goals, 82 three’s, and 125 free throws.
Switching the roles of Bryn Forbes and Patty Mills would make the Spurs a better team while also giving Spurs fans something to cheer for as a fan favorite has a career year while chasing membership in a historic fraternity of shooters. That seems like a win-win to me.
The Spurs are reaching a tipping point in their season. If they continue to struggle as they have they’ll play themselves out of the playoff picture soon enough. Patty Mills has come through in clutch moments for San Antonio before, maybe he can save the Spurs once again.