Patty Mills ceiling is higher than expected
Australian guard Patrick Mills celebrates at the end of the Men's Basketball Preliminary Round match as part of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Basketball Arena on August 6, 2012 in London, England. Australia won 82-80. AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON
When Australian basketballer Patty Mills was playing well at St Mary’s college in California, there was serious momentum behind the notion that he may even be fortunate enough to sneak into the NBA.
As history will now show, Mills was drafted with the 55th pick of the 2009 NBA draft by the Portland Trailblazers. He had made it to The Big Show, where few Australians before him had been lucky enough to venture.
Considering the fairly short list of Australians that were able to earn a spot in the best basketball league in the world, the ascension of Mills from the collegian ranks to professional basketball in America was rightfully considered a remarkable feat.
However, the expectations on Mills’ actual contributions on the court were not overly high. Mills was looked upon as merely a bench-warming reserve, who could occasionally be called upon to change the tempo of a game with his hustle and speed.
But now, after two Olympic campaigns and two seasons in the NBA – the second with the San Antonio Spurs – it’s quite evident that Mills’ potential is much greater than expected.
Whilst his amazing speed has been what was expected, his use of it has surprised many. He has the ability to not just race up and down the court, but also to get to positions on the floor that enable him to make plays, like penetrating into the paint.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s still truly a sight to behold in transition, regularly racing past opponents on his way to the ring, but his effective use of speed in the halfcourt has been better than anticipated.
A large reason for that has been the fact he has a textbook stroke on his jumpshot, making him a deadly perimeter shooter. It was first thought that his shot was just good enough to keep defences honest, but he’s actually a serious threat from outside.
Combined with his quickness, it makes him a very difficult assignment for defensive players.
As far an intangibles go, he has a level head, plays with passion, is willing to learn and likes the pressure of taking the big, important shot. This last point was best illustrated by his clutch, ice cold three pointer versus Russia that won the game on the buzzer for the Boomers.
Altogether, it’s a package that makes Mills a very interesting and appealing player. Suddenly, his ceiling has been raised from 12th man bench-warmer to potentially an ideal third guard in the rotation.
Like all players, Mills will need to keep working, and keep improving.
At the moment, he does have a tendency to force the odd questionable shot. Likewise, when he penetrates, he sometimes seems to be driving with the intent of only getting his own shot off. The good point guards penetrate in order to set up their teammates.
Mills is far from a ballhog, but his shot selection does need work.
Mills is also aggressive, and really tests the defence. It’s a great quality but he needs to understand that being aggressive doesn’t necessarily equal taking the shot. You can be aggressive whilst setting up your teammates.
Likewise, in transition, Mills needs to learn the importance of second phase execution: hitting trailers or rewarding big men that run the floor. Or failing those options, simply recognising the opportunity for fast break points has gone, and therefore pulling the ball out and running half court offense.
It’s these little intricacies of point guard play that Mills needs to become skilled at and then apply in-game.
However, that’s some fairly harsh nitpicking on my behalf. Mills is still just 23 years of age, he’s willing to learn, and his upside vastly outweighs any current minor negatives.
All things considered, the ceiling for Patty Mills is much higher than expected.
Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network and NBA Down Under, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.