San Antonio Spurs: Patty Mills is the X-Factor for the 2019-20 season

The most influential player on the San Antonio Spurs isn’t a starter or an up-and-comer, it’s the one man who has been here the longest: Patty Mills.

After leading the Australian National Team in the FIBA World Cup this summer, point guard Patty Mills has returned to the San Antonio Spurs for the 2019-20 season with a new sense of urgency. The 31-year-old is as spry as ever, gliding across the court with staggering quickness and curling off screens for triples at every opportunity.

At this point in his career, many would’ve expected Mills to take a backseat to his teammates and return to his towel-waving ways, but quite the opposite has been true. Mills now has the highest volume of his career and is thriving with the role. He has made 44.3% of his shots this year including makes on 41.8% of five triples per night. With a 57.2% effective field goal percentage, Mills is having his most efficient season since 2012-13 with a heavier workload than ever before.

He’s also been a deciding factor in many of the Spurs’ most important games this season. San Antonio is 6-0 in games where he’s made 5 or more three-pointers, 6-1 in games in which he has 17 or more points and 6-3 in games where he’s dished out four or more assists.

As the floor general for the second unit, Mills sets the tempo for the rest of his teammates by energizing those around him and pushing momentum forward for his team. Earning the trust of head coach Gregg Popovich is a long and difficult road, but few players have earned the legendary teambuilder’s respect like Mills has, and the Aussie sharpshooter has earned the green light from Pop.

Even though he’s not known for his defense, Mills fights hard on that end of the floor and generally instructs his teammates to do the same. That translates to the other end as the 6-foot-1 spark plug vitalizes his teammates and draws their best efforts.

The Spurs’ offensive rating increases by 5.2 with Mills on the floor and the opponent’s offensive rating jumps by 7.3 when he’s off the floor. Though these may be swayed since he’s oftentimes going up against second-units, Mills also logs a decent amount of time with the starters and usually energizes the group.

If the Spurs are going to fight their way back into the playoffs, it’s going to take a concerted effort from the entirety of the team, but Mills in particular will play a huge part in this. He’s playing up to the value of his contract this season after unlocking new aspects to his game in the offseason.

Regardless of his on-court performance, Mills is dealing with something much more important right now with bushfires ravaging his home country of Australia. For as great as he played in the Spurs’ win over the Milwaukee Bucks, he mentioned in the postgame show that he’d trade his raining threes for some rain at home.

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Mills has the unwavering support of the Spurs’ loyal fanbase in this trying time. Though Australia is his native home, San Antonio is his home in the United States and that isn’t likely to change any time soon with Mills under contract through 2021.