One of the most beloved players in San Antonio Spurs history, point guard Patty Mills had the best year of his career when his team needed a boost.
Holding onto veteran contributors after missing the playoffs doesn’t make a ton of sense for the San Antonio Spurs. This is especially jarring when considering the future of fan-favorite Patty Mills. An unquestioned leader on and off the court, Patty provides a spark of energy when inserted into the game and a guiding voice of leadership from the sidelines.
During the Orlando restart, we watched as Mills sat on the sidelines and returned to his former role: Supporting his teammates from the bench. This felt unnatural considering the spectacular run that Mills went on this year. He set a career-high in scoring average with 11.6 points per game with the second-best true shooting percentage of his career.
With only one season remaining on his contract, it would be logical to consider Mills a trade candidate. At this point in his career, he should be putting his talents to good use on a team where he can make an impact. Mills deserves to compete for an NBA championship once again.
— NBA (@NBA) December 20, 2019
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like he’ll be able to do that with the San Antonio Spurs for the foreseeable future. Does that mean it’s time for the two parties to go their separate ways?
Not necessarily, but it’s a strong possibility. The reason why San Antonio didn’t use Mills very often in their eight seating games is that it was a time for development. His younger cohorts took over his minutes and got invaluable reps against legitimate NBA competition. That experience led to one of the best Net Ratings in the Orlando bubble and a symbol of hope for the future of the San Antonio Spurs.
However, Mills embodies the fighting spirit of the 2014 San Antonio Spurs championship team. An unselfish player who prioritizes team success over individual accolades, Mills is the perfect example of Spurs culture.
He’s been a mentor to almost every player who’s walked through the doors of the AT&T Center and guides them through the process of being on this team. That’s not something that can easily be replicated — Most of the 2014 championship team is retired and gone by now. Mills is an extension of the Spurs’ culture with a heart of gold who considers San Antonio a home.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) September 29, 2020
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Ultimately, decisions about Mills‘ future with the San Antonio Spurs should come down to the player himself. Next season, he will enter unrestricted free agency in a transaction period full of talent. The next title contender may emerge in that span and it’d be unsurprising to see Mills get offers to compete for a title. If he wishes to pursue that in the final stages of his NBA career, he should do so. With a heart full of gold, Mills deserves every good thing that’s coming his way – Even if he has to leave the San Antonio Spurs to find it.
With that said, the organization shouldn’t hesitate to bring him back on a reasonable contract. They’ve already paid him his loyalty contract, so they shouldn’t have to break the bank to keep their backup point guard. Keeping Mills on the team should be a priority, but not at the expense of the team’s future. If they were to sign a big-name free agent who can help them compete immediately, bringing Mills back home is a no brainer.
As for next season, there’s really no telling what things will look like in San Antonio. The guard rotation is a bit clogged, causing concern for Mills‘ place in at all. Even with that being the case, there will be moments when the Spurs need to call on their feisty backup. The expectation should be that Mills will return next season in the same role that he had prior to the NBA’s suspension. For as much as the team has begun prioritizing youth, they won’t do it at the expense of winning.
Remaining competitive is part of the Spurs’ Way, which is why Patty will be back in action next season.