San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills is set to enter free agency in August while also representing his home country of Australia in the Olympics. Mills has a chance to show off his skills on an international stage and immediately took advantage by leading the Australian national team to an upset victory over Team USA on July 13. Mills has had some impressive games of his own, carrying the Aussies to an Olympic win over Nigeria with a stuffed stat line of 25 points, 5 threes, 6 assists, and 4 steals.
Assuming his strong play continues in the Olympics, it could bode well for him in free agency and possibly further jeopardize his return to the Spurs. Mills signed with the Spurs back in 2012 and slowly emerged as a valuable rotation player. Over the course of his 10-season tenure with the team, Mills averaged a solid 9.4 points and hit 1,171 threes, the second-most in franchise history.
The Olympics will drive Patty Mills' stock price up
While Mills is certainly a beloved member of the team, retaining him may ultimately prove to be more expensive than initially thought. That said, his shooting is a skill that the Spurs desperately need. Mills is a career 38.8 percent 3-point shooter, and it'll be unlikely that the team finds a shooter of his caliber to fill his role in free agency. Mills made $13.5 million this past season and while his age is a concern, he has yet to experience a clear drop-off in his production. Additionally, I believe that he could conceivably command a 2-year deal between $28 million and $32 million from the Spurs.
Furthermore, as the league has become more reliant on threes, Mills has altered his game accordingly. More than 70% of his attempts this past season were threes and he hit a career-high 161 of them despite the shortened season. His shooting will be on full display at the Olympics and may draw the attention of several hopeful playoff teams.
Contract negotiations with Mills could be tricky for the Spurs, as they'll likely have to offer him more money to retain him. Furthermore, at nearly 33 years old, I believe that Patty will likely seek a multi-year contract in free agency. While he was still very effective this past season, San Antonio should be hesitant to commit long-term.
After all, it's difficult to know how much he might regress over the lifespan of a new contract. While his shooting is unlikely to decline, his ability to get open is something that easily could. Players who rely on speed or athleticism to compensate for other shortcomings, like Mills, often experience sharp declines in old age. That said, Patty has been incredibly durable over the course of his time with the Spurs, suggesting that he’ll figure out ways to stay healthy.
Even if the Spurs do end up having to overpay for Mills a bit, though, they have significant cap space, allowing them to easily re-sign Mills and still pursue other free agents like John Collins and Lauri Markkanen. However, with players like Dejounte Murray and Derrick White likely taking on larger roles next season, Mills' role may be put on the backburner.
If that is indeed the case, then I think San Antonio may opt to look elsewhere rather than committing significant money to Mills over at least two seasons. While free agency is certainly still an option, the team could even look internally at a player like Tre Jones. Ultimately, the Spurs will have to weigh their need for shooting against the need to get younger in deciding whether to re-sign Patty.
It may be a while before San Antonio Spurs fans know what happens with Mills
Mills continuing to play in the Olympics could have one unforeseen effect: his free agency decision could be delayed. If Australia advances to the medal games, which are scheduled for August 4th and 6th, we may not see a decision from him until days after the start of free agency.
In that case, San Antonio may be forced to focus their attention on signing Collins or Markkanen and postpone their decision on Mills. While I don't think that it would affect the Spurs' decision on whether or not to re-sign Mills, it does open up the possibility of a sign and trade.
Even if the Spurs land one of their restricted free agent targets, depending on the price of that contract, they could also hold onto Patty's cap hold. That would give them the option to sign and trade Mills to the team of his choice (if not San Antonio).
That would open his options up to competing teams like the Lakers, 76ers, or Nets, who wouldn't otherwise be able to acquire him. The Spurs could also receive a potential asset or two in return, like one or more future second-round picks.
Ultimately, Patty's Olympic performance will give him the chance to remind teams of how good he is, thus likely increasing his value and decreasing his chances of being re-signed by the Spurs in free agency.