To expect something could mean that you see yourself or someone else having the ability to achieve success in a particular individual task.
Now let’s have a look at San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills. There’s a bit of confusion regarding the expectations this coming season concerning Mills and the Spurs. First, Spurs assistant coach and head coach of Australian basketball Brett Brown said he, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, and Tony Parker expect Mills to have a huge leap and a more prominent role this coming season.
But on Thursday, Mills said he himself doesn’t expect as increase in minutes, but instead he’s taking the process one-step at a time to becoming a better player.
We’ve seen what Mills could do when given some significant minutes in the silver and black. Last season, he not only brought productive minutes off the bench, but in games where Parker barely played or didn’t play at all, Mills was a scoring machine.
Now let’s go to London over the last two weeks. Again, Mills was a scoring machine as he set the 2012 London individual scoring mark with 39 points in a victory against Great Britain. Mills even scored 26 points on the all-powerful United States.
Here’s what wasn’t discussed much regarding Mills’ Olympic performance, his ability to excel as a shooting guard. When Mills plays with Australia, he is actually the starting shooting guard for the Boomers, as the younger Matthew Dellavedova handles the point guard responsibility.
Mills showed in London that he has the ability to score effectively as a shooting guard by either using his speed to get an open outside shot, hitting a jumper off a curl screen, or even driving into the lane and finishing at the rim or getting fouled from time to time.
Another aspect of Mills’ game was his defense, as several times he pick-pocketed ball handlers who weren’t cautiously aware of where Mills was at on the court. Mills also got himself some easy points by getting ahead out on the break and being the recipient of outlet passes for converted layups.
So, Mills left San Antonio in April with the already known ability to play point guard, then he went to London and added to his repertoire the ability to play shooting guard, so in essence, he’ll be returning to the Spurs this coming season with even more opportunity because now he’s shown the coaching staff his versatility on offense.
First let’s breakdown the Spurs’ guards in terms of rotation: Danny Green or Manu Ginobili will probably start at shooting guard and the other will come off of the bench. Gary Neal is usually the third shooting guard off the bench, but now Mills can also play before or behind Neal as a shooting guard, while Nando De Colo would be bumped last to the bench.
For point guards, Parker is the starter and either Mills or Cory Joseph will be his primary backup, with De Colo coming deep off the bench. For Mills, he’s bound to get an increased role in terms of minutes.
For one, he’s most likely going to be the clear backup to Parker, unless the coaching staff was swayed by Joseph’s Summer League growth. Second, Mills can also get put into different situational lineups. Maybe head coach Gregg Popovich is looking for speed and firepower, well even though they’ll get eaten up on defense, Parker and Mills could play alongside each other to put some quick points on the board. Or even a small scoring lineup of Mills and Neal together could be used for a few minutes as a rotation when offense is needed.
Third, Mills will have some games when he’s the starter if coach Pop decides to rest Parker on different occasions. Mills already showed last season that he could fully take on the duty of being the starting guard, so that shouldn’t be a challenge for him.
Mills might not think he’s going to get increased minutes early on, but I think over the summer he has clearly earned his position as the backup point guard and cemented himself a situational role in serious moments in games. The Spurs already had five guards on the roster before re-signing Mills and adding De Colo. There’s got to be an expectation that Mills will succeed with a bigger role this coming season.
Now, it’s just up to Mills to take the opportunity and run with it, just like he did in London two weeks ago.