Q+A with A Stern Warning: Talking Patty Mills

With the San Antonio Spurs set to add guard Patty Mills to the roster soon, many Spurs fans might be scratching their heads about Mills. Who is he? What can he bring to the team? Is he going to fit into the Spurs’ system?

I must admit, all I knew about Mills was that he played in Australia for Spurs assistant coach Brett Brown and that he once played for the Trail Blazers.

Luckily, Bloguin’s own Mookie Schiralli of A Stern Warning follows Australian basketball and writes about it over at his blog. Mookie is one of the best bloggers around when it comes to Australian basketball so it made sense for me to speak with him about Mills for Spurs fans.

In this Q+A, Mookie breaks down what Mills will bring to the Spurs, how well he performed in Australia, and much more.

Jeff: What will Mills bring to the Spurs other than what his stats show?

Mookie: The thing to know about Patty is, he is the consummate team guy. He waives his towel when a team mate scores, he is the first to bolt across the court and help a fallen team mate get up, he leads the choruses in the locker room. Everyone likes him — it’s impossible not to. Even as a fringe player in Portland, he was immediately an integral part of the team, with things like his three-goggles becoming a part of the team’s psyche, despite Mills not playing more than garbage time minutes. He does a lot for charity and will always embrace the fans.

How did he perform in Australia?

When the lockout struck, Mills made the commitment to help Australian basketball by coming back to play in the country’s National Basketball League. He had bigger offers overseas, but he saw the opportunity to give something back to his home and the fans appreciated it. It definitely built hype around the Melbourne Tigers when Patty signed. Initially, he came out all guns blazing, scoring at a very high clip, demonstrating the shooting ability and speed for which he is known. Unfortunately though for Mills, he was not developing the pure point guard skills that he had intended to do whilst in Australia. In fact, whilst averaging 21.5ppg in his first four games, he only dished out an average of 2.0apg. The criticism soon came that Patty needed to create more for his team mates and he responded resoundingly by averaging 9.3apg over the next three contests. In the nine games he played in the NBL, he averaged 18.6ppg and 5.0apg in 33.8mpg.

The Spurs stress defense. Does Mills have what it takes to play on the defensive end of the court?

Mills is an excellent full court defender with his amazing pace. He keeps in front of his man well with his agility and foot speed. His strength certainly appears to be in full court trapping situations rather than half-court sets, where he is a relatively average defender, as he does not possess a great deal of body mass against stronger guards. In addition, for such a quick player, he does not get a great number of steals — an area he could surely improve on.  Overall, he is neither excellent or poor defensively, but has a good understanding of fundamentals and is a smart player who adapts well to systems.

Would you consider the Spurs signing Mills a steal? If so why?

Mills signing with the Spurs was always somewhat on the cards, due to his connection with Spurs Assistant Coach Brett Brown, who also is Head Coach of the Australian Boomers. Mills’ time in China before and after the lockout ended meant that he has been away from the NBA game this season and thus somewhat off the radar of many teams no doubt. I gather that a few teams had their eye on him, so the Spurs securing him would definitely be a coup on some level. However the reality is, Mills needs to prove at the NBA level that his flashes of brilliance and huge potential can be converted into a consistent role in an NBA rotation, much as he was approaching towards the end of his time with the Blazers.

What are his strengths and weaknesses?

Strengths: 

  • Similarity of game to Tony Parker (quick, scoring point guard), giving the Spurs the chance to maintain their offensive sets when Parker rests.
  • Unrivalled speed. Others may be similar, but none would be significantly faster.
  • Positive attitude in the team camp which boosts morale.
  • Solid three-point shot, particularly in big spurts. Quick release.
  • High level of coachability.
  • Age 23, with a great deal of potential.
  • Has hit some big shots in his NCAA/international career.

Weaknesses:

  • Slight build
  • Relative inexperience at the NBA level (74 games, 11.1mpg)
  • Propensity to settle for outside shot rather than creating for others at times.

I hope Patty does well in San Antonio!

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