Hey there, I'm a writer for a small Australian and New Zealand basketball website called NZhoops. Currently I'm doing a series on "Australians in the NBA" and just finished a piece on Patty Mills. Because he's so integral to your side for moral support and all that, I thought it could be cool to share it here.
If this annoys the admins with me posting content from another site and sort of advertising it, please feel free to delete it immediately. I'm really just trying to reach a wider audience and get feedback on my writing as I am only just starting out.Australian point guard Patty Mills has already proven his ability to run a team at the Olympic level. Can he do so in the NBA?
Basketball analysis has experienced a revolution in the most recent decade. Phrases like 'efficiency', 'true shooting percentage' and 'rebounding rate' have become common among even the most casual fan of the NBA. These phrases have not only changed the way we talk about basketball however, it also has changed the way we evaluate players.
In 2001, newly minted MVP Allen Iverson was at the top of his game. Coming off a season where he had led the league in scoring and taken his 76er's team to an unlikely NBA Finals berth, Iverson was hailed as a young superstar and one of the greatest players in the game. No one cared that his 31.1 points per game came on less than 52% true shooting or that he had a player efficiency rating of just 24 (for reference 2013 MVP LeBron James numbers were 64% and 31.6, respectively)
Iverson could get buckets and he could impress crowds while doing so. Today, Iverson - although still considered a great player of his era - is labelled an overrated, inefficient gunner by many analysts. Iverson is considered a "combo guard", too small to be a shooting guard but too scoring minded to be considered a "true point guard". Combo guards are often among the most disliked players by statistical minded analysts (myself included). They often toss up low quality shots at a high rate and can be considered negative influences on their team's offences.
Patty Mills - St Mary's (CA)
I'm sure that most of you reading this are aware of Patty Mills to the extent that there isn't the need to delve as deep into his early basketball career as there was in my previous piece in this series on Matthew Dellavedova. However looking into how Mills performed at the NCAA level and his progression through that time in his basketball career may show a trend across his timeline, or the point in which he decided to start trying to hone his skills that would be required at the next level.
Patty was recruited to St Mary's after a very strong career as a junior, making the Australian senior national team at just 17 years of age. He arrived on campus as a 19 year old and instantly made his mark. He immediately was a starting guard for the WCC team, averaging a shade under 15 points a game on a relatively efficient 55% true shooting. Although being only 6 feet tall, Mills wasn't asked to be a pure point guard, averaging 3.5 assists per game in his first season. The diminutive guard was a key component of the team going 25-7 and finishing second in the WCC, for which he was rewarded by being named the conferences' 'best newcomer' and was named to the All-WCC first team.
Mills returned to the Californian school for the 2008-09 season, his second. It was clear that the Gaels had decided that the second year guard would be the focal point of their offence, with Mills taking almost four shots per game more than the previous season. This was also noted by other WCC teams however as they keyed their defence on him, resulting in less efficient scoring. Although Mills' points per game increased from 14.8 to 18.4, his true shooting percentage dropped from 55% to 53%. Despite this attention on Mills, he was again named to the All-WCC first team and led the team to a 28-7 record.
The biggest development in Mills statistical profile in college is his acknowledgement that he needed to be a three point threat if he wanted to be successful in the NBA. Mills ramped his three point attempts up from 5.9 in his freshman year up to a whopping 7.6 in his sophomore year. For comparison, that is the same number of attempts per game as Golden State Warriors marksman Stephen Curry attempted this past season in around 5 minutes less playing time. Although he wasn't overly efficient with this shot - shooting less than 34% - it is evident that Mills and his brains trust decided that to be effective in the NBA at his size, he would have to be able to knock down threes at a good clip. Gunning from beyond the arc in game gave him a ton of real world preparation for his pro career. Mills also saw a spike in his free throw shooting, converting on a shade under 10% more of his attempts from the stripe. This was probably the most obvious result of Mills focussing on his shooting stroke over the offseason.
Patty Mills burst onto the international stage came to the attention of many basketball followers at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Despite being only 19 years old when the games started, Mills was able to average over 14 points per game off of the bench, including 20 and 22 point efforts against USA and Argentina respectively. These showings against two of the powerhouses of international basketball announced that Mills could mix it with the best that the world had to offer on the big stage.
Early Career - Portland Trailblazers
Mills got the opportunity he had been striving for after being taken 55th in the 2009 NBA draft by the Portland Trailblazers. On a good squad that had been perennial playoff contenders, just getting through training camp was a huge achievement for the Aussie guard. In his rookie season, Mills split time between the NBA squad and its' Development League affiliate the Idaho Stampede. In his 5 game stint with the Stampede, Mills was his dominant self. He averaged 25.6 points on a very efficient 59% true shooting and 5.4 assists in slightly more than 35 minutes. Although it came with the very small sample size caveat, Mills was able to demonstrate his scoring instincts and ability to attack. With the 'Blazers, Mills playing time was sporadic - playing just 38 minutes over the course of the entire season. Mills was largely limited to 'garbage time', with 9 of his 10 games that he made an appearance in resulting in a double digit margin of victory for either the Trailblazers or their opponent. His combined stats however did show some promise, tallying 26 points and 5 assists in minutes which amounted to around the amount of game time that a top flight NBA starter would get over the course of a regular season game.
In his second season with the team, Mills became the main backup at the point guard position. This was the first real opportunity for fans to see him get some burn with the squad, as his minutes upticked to 12.2 in 64 appearances on court. Portland's starting backcourt of Andre Miller and Brandon Roy were both notorious for liking to play slow, leading to the Blazers' recording the leagues slowest pace in the 2010-11 season. Mills' main task was to come in and provide a burst to the offence and a spark of speed that the backcourt otherwise lacked. Mills was able to provide a respectable 16.2 points and 5 assists per 36 minutes on 50.6% true shooting. After the season however the Trailblazers decided to renounce their rights to Mills with the impending lockout, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent.
After stints over in Australia and China, Mills was picked up late in the 2011-12 season by San Antonio for the rest of the year and was able to serve as the third point guard behind Tony Parker and Gary Neal. Although he had just 16 games to make an impression, Mills was able to play very well in his limited stint posting 23 and 5 per 36 on a ridiculously efficient 60.4% true shooting. Ignoring the small sample size, it was clear that Mills had improved immensely as a player since his last stint in the NBA and was thriving in Gregg Popovich's system. The impressive work had paid off with the Spurs rewarding Mills with a two year contract with a player option on the second year, a mark that Mills had solidified his status as an NBA player.
His second season with the Spurs began with Mills again playing the role of the third point guard, although this time he had competition for his spot. Canadian Cory Jospeh, the teams first round draft pick a year prior was a year more experienced and the Spurs had also brought in 25 year old rookie Nando De Colo to compete for minutes. This resulted in a bit of a timeshare, with Mills appearing in 58 games throughout the season, averaging 11.3 minutes per game. Mills still performed his role admirably however, posting 16 points per 36 minutes on very efficient 59% true shooting. All of this despite being shifted off of the ball for the first time in his career, playing more as a designated shooter rather than pick and roll and transition creator. He lost out eventually to Jospeh who replaced him in the postseason rotation, the extra size and length providing Popovich with more options defensively. This relegated Mills to a specialist towel waiving position, a task he performed fantastically.
Patty Mills has shown that he is an NBA player in some capacity. He has moulded himself into a ridiculously efficient three point bomber, showing that he has the ability to turn something that was not even perceived as a strength into something that can now be considered an elite skill. This very skill set has value, and almost ensures that he will be able to command a place on an NBA roster until he proves otherwise.
As for the hope of Mills becoming a full time 15-20 minute per game backup in the J.J. Barea/Nate Robinson mould, Mills will have to prove that he can run a team and get them into their sets without a hitch. These intuitive skills are essential to any player that wishes to run point for a team, and quite frankly Mills has not shown these yet. He still displays a score first mentality, probably due to being an 'alpha dog' all his life known to carry teams on his back. For Mills to succeed, he must show that he is more than just a burst of energy off of the bench. He must shed the 'combo guard' label and prove that he is willing to play within a teams structure and philosophy.
Basketball is about more than just points per game nowadys, and although Mills "gets buckets", he must continue to do so at an efficient clip and run his team well.
Even if he is stuck to the pine throughout his career though, Mills is still all about being the best he can be.
Just check out his towel waiving.