Patty Thrills: How the Man From Down Under Has Been Lighting It Up

In the summer of 2017, when details emerged that Patty Mills had re-signed with the San Antonio Spurs for $50 million over four years, some were happy with the value of the contract, while others not so much. Mills began his career as a crowd favorite towel waver in Portland. It wasn’t until his second season with the Trail Blazers that he was getting consistent minutes. After signing with the Spurs, Mills eventually grew into becoming a solid spark plug off the bench for a championship team.

Proving His Worth

After signing his latest contract with the Spurs, Patty Mills went on to post career-highs in minutes and starts in the 2017-18 campaign. He averaged 25.7 minutes per game and made 36 starts, up from a previous career-high of just eight starts. Mills had a solid playoff campaign that year, scoring 13.5 points per game against the Golden State Warriors.

However, despite following up that season with a similar (or slightly better) regular season, Mills’ production fell off a cliff during the 2019 playoffs. He averaged a career-worst 5.3 points per game, shot 32.6% from the floor and connected on a measly 13.6% of his shots from downtown. In a hard-fought seven game series against the Denver Nuggets, had Mills merely had his normal playoff averages, the Spurs may have been looking at a big playoff upset. Instead, Spurs fans were left pondering if Mills had reached the end of his usefulness at the wrong side of 30.

Patty Mills in the FIBA World Cup

Coming off a disappointing playoff performance, Patty Mills had a busy summer suiting up for Australia in the FIBA World Cup. Australia surprised many with a fourth place finish and reached the semi-finals. Patty Mills was the catalyst offensively by being one of the most efficient players in the tournament. He averaged 22.8 points and 3.9 assists. He also shot a tidy 49.6% from the floor.

Patty Mills’ stats from the 2019 FIBA World Cup

Patty Mills was playing with a newfound confidence. He was decisive with the ball and embraced being the go-to man down the stretch. He got Australia into their offensive sets early and was always penetrating the defense, which often led to a crafty basket under the rim or a kick out to the wide open man.

Australia had never gone beyond the quarter-finals in 11 previous appearances. Mills’ successful stint with the national team was a precursor to his aggressiveness and his shoot-first mentality heading into the 2019-2020 season with the Spurs.

“Mindset wise, for sure, yeah,” Mills told NBA.com. “I think it was good to get out and stretch the legs a little bit and play that way, that style. I think it was a good reminder of who I am as a basketball player and make sure I never forget that.

“So a good little trigger to come in this season and have that same mindset.”

Trigger Happy

Despite the feel-good vibes from the summer tournament, Patty Mills got off to a rather slow start this season. During the first four games of the season, Mills shot just 39.3% from the floor and averaged 8.0 points per contest. He was struggling defensively, and had a hard time getting the team into their sets.

However, starting in the month of November, Patty Mills began to find his shooting stroke. He began the month by ripping the Golden State Warriors for 31 points. In November, Mills is shooting 49.6% from the floor (up 10% over October), 44.4% from three-point territory and 85.2% from the line, while averaging a healthy 12.3 points per game. What’s more, Mills is posting a strong defensive rating despite being undersized.

When looking at his stats from October to November, we can see an uptick in his performance nearly all across the board.

It should be noted that Patty Mills got off to a slow start last season as well before bouncing back the following month.

One thing in particular Mills has done well is that he is making decisions much quicker with the ball in his hands. He tended to over-dribble to start the season, which led to him forcing his shots later and later into the shot clock. However, during this month’s stretch of stronger performances, Mills is often shooting the ball without hesitation or finding the open man earlier on.

During the first four games of the season, Mills was shooting 10.7% of his shots with the shot clock down to 4 seconds or less. In November, Mills has only taken 9.2% of his shots with the shot clock down to 7-4 seconds and 4 seconds or less combined.

Spark Plug

With the Spurs struggling to generate offense from their starting lineup, Patty Mills’ bench production is a welcome sight. He is shooting a career-best 44.4% from three to go with another career-high in steals per game at 0.9. He surprisingly places in the top 20 in the league in FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR rankings. These rankings are based on player tracking data which are updated on a daily basis.

During his tenure with the Spurs, Mills has embraced his veteran leadership role more and more. With rumors of the Spurs looking to trade key players, the need for Mills to continue to bring stability matters more than ever. Spurs fans can only hope that his boost in production is here to stay.