I recently ran across an article on Bright Side of the Sun that did a deep dive into the heat checks of Gerald Green. The eight-year swingman broke out as an offensive force last season. A major part of his success with the Suns last year, as Kellan Olson noted, can be attributed to his ability to knock down bad shots.
Which immediately made me think of Patty Mills.
While they play different positions, Gerald and Mills have had comparable narratives in finding a comfortable NBA home. Upon entering the league, they received a good amount of hype due to their respective performances in high school/college/international basketball. Green hopped around Boston, Minnesota, Houston, Dallas, New Jersey, and Indiana before he could find a solid role in Phoenix at small forward.
Mills started his career as a fringe backup point guard in Portland from 2009-11. He then played internationally in Melbourne and Xingjiang for the majority of the 2012 lockout-shortened season. It wasn't until the Spurs' Gary Neal backup PG experiment reached its unsatisfying conclusion that Mills found his first real opportunity to show what he could contribute to an NBA team aside from the occasional towel wave. San Antonio was in desperate need of anyone who could dribble the ball up the floor for the bench during the days/weeks/months of the occasional Manu Ginobili injury, which set us up for the Cory Joseph-Mills backup PG battle to the death.
Green went on to earn his spot with sufficiently decent defense and an ability to generate offense by hitting difficult (and occasionally head-smack inducing) shots. Mills and Joseph both offered appealing aspects in their defensive games, but Mills eventually won out the competition with his ability to knock down shots.
For a Spur, Mills creates an astonishingly large number of shots on his own. He had the third-highest percentage of unassisted made two-pointers (55.7%) behind only Tony Parker (67.5%) and Manu Ginobili (57.8%). Mills coupled that with the highest percentage (by a large margin) of unassisted made three pointers (27.4%). When role players try to generate offense on their own, it usually doesn't pan out well. But Mills creates a sizable chunk of his own while remaining an absurdly efficient shooter.
Last season, Mills was not only in the NBA's top-30 for most pull-up jumpers, he also ranked ninth in the NBA for effective field goal percentage (eFG%) on those pull-ups. The player one spot in front of him? Stephen Curry, the star who once hit an off-balance, one-legged pull-up three in a playoff game against San Antonio.
What's even more impressive is that Mills shot an unthinkable 48% on his pull-up threes. Nobody who shot as many pull up threes as Mills was even close to as efficient as he was (Jordan Farmar was the next best, shooting 43.5%). A pull-up three is one of the hardest shots to hit in basketball, and last season Mills made them look easy, converting them at a higher rate than:
1. His overall three point FG%.
2. The 3-point FG% of every single team in the NBA.
3. The FG% of 28 teams.
4. DeAndre Jordan's FT%.
And yet the most stunning fact: last season, Mills had the 24th highest eFG% in the NBA. This puts him ahead of some of the NBA's best shooters, including Trevor Ariza, Jodie Meeks, Kevin Durant, and Stephen Curry. Durant was just about as good as you can get offensively last season. He blew by defenders, shed double- and triple-teams, and knocked down unthinkable shots. Yes, Mills was more efficient.
What's even crazier about that stat is the fact that Mills had a higher eFG% than Ray Allen - a player who almost exclusively takes wide-open spot-ups. Mills, with his fadeaways, PUJITs, and a whole other assortment of questionable shots, put the ball in the hoop more efficiently than one of the greatest sharp-shooters in the history of basketball who was spoon-fed open shot opportunities practically once a minute.
As noted in Olson's article, Gerald Green was extraordinarily efficient despite taking difficult shots. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for Spur fans) the offensive comparisons between Green and Mills end there.
Gerald was much more turnover-prone than Mills. That's not to say that Green turned the ball over frequently, far from it, in fact; he averaged a solid 10.6 turnover ratio (number of turnovers per 100 possessions). The turnover discrepancy between the two had more to do with Patty's sure-handed running of the offense -- Mills averaged a mere 6.9 TO ratio, easily the best on the Spurs last season. Among players who averaged 15 or more minutes per game, Mills had the 11th best turnover ratio, behind several role players with low usage percentages, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Dirk Nowitzki. That's seriously good company.
Last season, Patty Mills spat fire from all over, and managed the ball well at the point. He led the 2013-14 Spurs in several efficiency categories, a miraculous feat for a player on such an offensive juggernaut. This is all despite the fact that he took so many questionable shots. Patty Mills: an efficiency expert indeed.
All statistics courtesy of www.nba.com/stats.