Could Patty Mills make it as a starter?

Simon Douch Roar Guru

By , Simon Douch is a Roar Guru

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    Patty Mills has become one of Australia’s richest Athletes, signing a $50 million contract with the San Antonio Spurs over four years and committing to his role as a dynamic scorer off the bench.

    It’s a smart move because, ultimately, Mills couldn’t survive nor garner as much attention if he were to play for another team in the NBA.

    Mills is Australian basketball’s golden boy. He was a sole beacon of hope during a time when the quality of our national basketball team was laughable. In London 2012 Mills carried the Boomers through the competition with a supporting cast of a young Matthew Dellavedova and Joe Ingles, who was yet to crack the NBA.

    He had the ‘green light’ to score at any time and averaged 21.2 points, single-handedly keeping the team competitive. His scoring average was the highest of any player in the competition, with Kevin Durant second, scoring 19.5 points per game. The Boomers fell to the American team in the quarter finals and finished seventh overall.

    While his efforts in an Australian basketball uniform are impressive and admirable, the NBA is a completely different, higher intensity competition. So it leaves one major question.

    Is Patty a starting-calibre NBA point guard?

    It’s hard to know if Mills would be as successful with another team, away from the tutelage of Gregg Popovich and an offensive system that is in sync with his deadly catch-and-shoot scoring. The Spurs franchise has been a safe haven that has allowed Mills to flourish and build on his game.

    While boasting a range of impressive skills, Mills’ career would ultimately suffer if he were to ever play for another team. His career statistics and international efforts show that there is one major flaw to his game, however: playmaking.

    Mills’ lack of playmaking is critical to the reason he stayed with the Spurs – and why he would not be successful with most other clubs.

    (Image: AAP Image/Sam Mooy)

    As a point guard, playmaking is a critical component. Running the pick-and-roll with big men or finding an open player gives a team’s offence multiple capabilities. In Mills’ case, he requires another ball handler so he can effectively work off the ball and find open shots in mid range or from behind the three point line.

    He is a shoot-first point guard, not a pass-first point guard, which is required from a starter. Perhaps that is only because of the Spurs system that he is playing in, but on the national level it’s hard to think he would be able to play as well without a very capable Dellavedova at shooting guard.

    This hole in his game would be exploited, especially without another ball handler on the court.

    Mills operates best when he is not the main offensive player on the court. He has insane speed and a great ability to get open, but otherwise he offers little as an NBA starter.

    I only see the Milwaukee Bucks and Minnesota Timberwolves as potential suitors for Mills, where he could start at point guard. Jimmy Butler and Giannis Antetokounmpo are two well-established All-Stars who command a large chunk of the possession and could pick up the slack.

    Mills would be able to continue his excellent shooting game alongside these two stars, similar to what Manu Ginobili or Kawhi Leonard do for him at the Spurs.

    The Philadelphia 76ers would also be suitors, with fellow Aussie Ben Simmons also a playmaker, but Mills could not knock Markelle Fultz from the starting position.

    Perhaps Mills’ best bet at becoming a starter in the NBA is doing exactly what he has done this offseason, which is staying at the Spurs. If Leonard’s playmaking ability improves, Mills may well and truly take over the starting position from Tony Parker. Surely it’s only a matter of time before Parker retires or at the very least comes off the bench.

    Patty Mills is an outstanding basketball talent, he is an NBA champion and a deadly outside shooter for the Spurs. His biggest credit, though, is failing to see that ‘the grass is greener on the other side’ and re-signing with the beloved team. Call it loyalty, call it knowing your place – but well done Patty.

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