Every Patty Mills finish is a snowflake. A unique, feathery-light droplet that forms in the few frenetic moments before the six-foot guard careens into a space that’s usually occupied by bigger dudes from the other team.
It’s been one of the more underrated Spurs plays over the years, a brief flash of instinct and ingenuity that usually results in two easy points for a player who’s best known for taking threes.
Mills has had an excellent start to the season, showcasing a better all-around game as he’s stepped into a bigger role. His layups, though, have been one of the more efficient shots for the Spurs since he came over in 2012. Aside from his injury-curbed 2014-15 season, his shooting around the basket (between 60 and 67%) has been well above the league average of 55%.
Being a threat from deep definitely facilitates his ability to shake free of a defender and dart towards the rim, either with or without the ball. Priority number one with Mills will always be chasing him off the three-point line, and his below-the-rim game will rarely cause defenses to completely collapse on him when he gets in the paint.
That’s all the daylight the Bala usually needs to make a play. Help will come, but Mills’ finish will almost never be the simple lay-in the defender anticipates. Here, he completes the play in Tony Parker-esque fashion, using the rim to shield himself from Andre Iguodala.
A lot of these baskets are the result of Mills’ constant movement off the ball. He cuts with purpose, and it’s not just so that he can curl around the baseline and head back towards the three-point line. He’s always ready to receive the ball and guide it into the hoop, regardless of who’s there to contest. He gets this one up over the outstretched, 6’10’’ wingspan of Dante Exum by releasing it a split-second earlier than expected.
Going high off the glass can be enough to trick a taller, more athletic defender who, in the moment, is anticipating the ball assuming a normal trajectory. By doing so, Mills goes from the likely block victim, to the one managing the situation. [Editor’s Note: Bonus points for Mills for being able to check behind him to see where the defender’s coming from, while still perfectly executing a high-degree-of-difficulty shot. - jRW]
And, really, that’s the fun in these plays -- seeing how he tackles each scenario with something a little funky and different, turning a seemingly desperate situation into two San Antonio points before he races back the other way.