Multiple league insiders insist that the San Antonio Spurs are more open than ever to trading Patty Mills. Dating back to the 2020 NBA Draft, the Spurs are said to have included Mills in multiple trade proposals.
The 32-year-old is having arguably the best season of his career. He’s averaging a career-best 13.0 points per game, while shooting 44.0% from the field, 39.3% on three-pointers and 90.6% from the charity stripe.
When discussing the Spurs and the possibility of a trade, most of the focus has been on San Antonio possibly swapping LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan or even Rudy Gay. However, although Mills may have a lower profile than all three of those players, he very well could have the most trade value of the bunch.
The native of Australia is not only having a very good season, he has championship experience, understands how to play an important role from off the bench, fits the modern NBA perfectly and his team-first approach would make him a strong locker room presence on any team in the league. Add it all up and it’s easy to understand why most contenders would love to have him on their squad.
Why the Spurs May Trade Patty Mills
Mills is a free agent at the end of the season. He’ll be 33 years old prior to the start of the 2021-22 campaign. With guards Dejounte Murray and Derrick White signed to long-term extensions, giving big money to Mills in the summer would be a very questionable investment — if viewed strictly from a basketball perspective.
For a championship contender, Mills is worth a truckload of dinero. For a team like the Spurs that is trying to build their way back into contention, it’d be an uphill climb to justify giving him another multi-year deal.
How much would it cost to re-sign Mills? If he keeps playing as well as he has been playing, I think the bidding for him starts at a full mid-level exception deal, which will be worth approximately $30 million over the next three seasons. If the Spurs aren’t prepared to offer him a contract that resides in that ballpark, they could opt to trade him before Thursday’s deadline.
Why the Spurs May Decide to Keep Patty Mills
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
1) The Spurs are making a strong push to find their way back to the playoffs. Mills has been a vital part of that push. Trading him away would make today’s team worse.
2) It’s no secret that Mills is probably the most beloved teammate to ever come through San Antonio — and that alone is saying a lot. He’s a proven leader and mentor. With a team with so many youngsters, keeping around a player like Mills has as many ramifications off the court as on the court.
3) He’s the final link back to the championship days. There has to be some value in that, right? If the day comes when the Spurs are again competing for a title, it’d count for something to have Mills around to tell his teammates what to expect — even if he’s old and grizzled.
4) As previously stated, Mills was built to play in the modern NBA. He’s fast, he can create his own three-point looks, he can shoot on the move and he has enough Aussie ruggedness in him to defend when switched off onto a bigger, stronger player.
Will the Spurs Trade Patty Mills?
Probably not. Personally, I think Pop and the front office value him too much as a human being and a basketball player to trade him right now.
If I had to put percentages on the different scenarios, I’d say there’s a 70% chance the Spurs keep him and look to re-sign him, a 20% chance the Spurs keep him and don’t look to re-sign him, and a 10% chance the Spurs deal him before the trade deadline.
If the Spurs do trade him, I’m certain that they would require a bountiful return. There will be no Patty Mills firesale. Not only will the Spurs want a lot in return, they would be sure to trade him to a championship contender as a final thank-you gesture.
When factoring in those conditions to deal, I only see two possible trades featuring Mills that the Spurs may consider.
Spencer Dinwiddie, Nicolas Claxton and Two Second Round Picks for Patty Mills
Sean Marks and his Brooklyn Nets have been after Mills for years. In fact, the Nets were the most aggressive suitor for Mills prior to signing his last contract, a deal that was worth $48 million over four years.
With the Nets in a win-now situation after acquiring the Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving trio, Marks would likely jump at the opportunity to add Mills to his mix.
For the Spurs to part with Mills, I believe they’d need to get Spencer Dinwiddie, Nicolas Claxton and a pair of second round draft picks.
Dinwiddie is a tricky player to value properly, as he’s out for the season after tearing his ACL and is sure to opt out of the final year of his contract to become a free agent in the summer. Last season, he averaged 20.6 points and 6.8 assists in 31.2 minutes per game and scored a career-high 41 points against San Antonio.
Even coming off of a torn ACL, Dinwiddie will likely command a hefty deal. He’ll be 28 years old with a resume that includes success as a team’s main offensive threat. That bullet point is enough to make him a well-paid individual.
Why would the Spurs want Dinwiddie?
1) In theory, the 6-foot-5 combo guard could form a mean three-guard rotation with Murray and White if the Spurs decide to keep him.
2) The Spurs could use a bulk scorer if DeRozan leaves. Dinwiddie is a bulk scorer.
3) Even if the Spurs are hesitant to re-sign him, they could put him in a sign-and-trade in the offseason to recoup some value.
4) In Murray, San Antonio has experience with a guard coming off of an ACL injury. That experience should help the Spurs in terms of knowing what to expect from him over the next year.
Claxton is a 21-year-old, 6-foot-11 big man who was the 31st pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Although he has only played in ten games this season, he’s averaging 8.6 points and 4.0 rebounds in 17.2 minutes per game. Like Dinwiddie, Claxton’s career-high came against the Spurs. About three weeks ago, he scored 17 points in 17 minutes in Brooklyn’s 124-113 overtime victory.
Though still raw, Claxton has good upside. He’s an extremely mobile big, particularly defensively. He can also get out and run. His offensive game is still rudimentary but he has flashed an interesting amount of potential. Defensively, Claxton needs to get stronger but his extreme mobility is already an eye-opening attribute.
As far as the second round draft picks are concerned, the Nets have incoming picks from the Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns. The Spurs would probably insist on receiving the second round picks from the Pacers and Hawks to complete this Mills trade.
Josh Green, James Johnson, a First Round Pick and a Second Round Pick to the Spurs, Patty Mills to the 76ers, Danny Green and Trey Lyles to the Mavs
Another team that has been calling about acquiring Mills for years is the Philadelphia 76ers. Although noted Mills fanatic Brett Brown is no longer their head coach, the Sixers still need more three-point shooting and a point guard who is comfortable playing off of the ball. Enter Mills.
In this three-team deal, the Spurs send Mills to the Sixers and Lyles to the Dallas Mavericks. In return, they get Josh Green, James Johnson and a second round pick from the Mavericks and a first round pick from the Sixers.
The Sixers get Mills in return for Danny Green and a first round pick, while the Mavericks get Green and Lyles. Prior to signing with the Lakers, the Mavs were the other team hot after Green. In this trade, they land him to add another defender and another shooter to put around Luka Doncic.
From the Spurs point of view, the main attraction is the first round pick coming from the Sixers. Even though it’d be a late first rounder, the Spurs have been able to find a lot of value late in the first round — to put it humbly.
In addition to the second rounder from the Mavs, the Spurs would replenish their Australian quota by getting Josh Green. The Sydney native was the 18th pick of the 2020 draft. He hasn’t shown much in the NBA or G League yet but he’s an athletic 6-foot-5 swingman out of the University of Arizona.
Johnson is primarily in the trade to make salaries match but he’d also be a suitable replacement for Lyles as a veteran power forward who can step in when needed.
Both of these trades are admittedly unlikely. However, if the Spurs were to deal Mills at the trade deadline, one of these two trades would make the most sense.