December 15th is a significant day on the NBA calendar. It is the first day that free agents signed in the offseason can be traded. For the San Antonio Spurs, that means it’s the first day Boris Diaw, Pat Mills and Tim Duncan (unlikely) can be traded.
So since they can, should the Spurs look to move the only Aussie in the NBA right now?
Perhaps Patty would be better off playing in a different NBA city?
Last season Mills averaged 10.3 points per game, becoming only the second Aussie besides Andrew Bogut to average over 10 points per game during an NBA season, he also chipped in 2 rebounds and 2 assists during 16 minutes a game.
This season so far we’ve seen his production basically halve with Mill’s averaging only 5 points, 1 rebound and 1 assist per game. Sure thus far Patty is playing a little less (12 minutes per game compated to 16 minutes last season) but his shooting percentages are exactly the same 48% from the field and 42% from downtown as last season.
So why the big drop in statistics?
What is it that has changed besides playing 4 minutes less a game?
The boys over at crunchtimeshots.com believe Mills’ numbers are down due the high amount of pick and roll offence the Spurs are running this season. Mills turnover rate in these situations is not pretty (57.1% of these plays are turnovers) compared to last season where Mills was much more respectable (21.1%). However even though his turnovers appear higher in pick and roll situations this season Patty’s turnovers have actually decreased looking at minute by minute. Mills turnovers have dropped from 3.6 last season to 3.0 this year (per 36 minutes).
Perhaps Mills’ Achilles heel is really his actual heel? Mills has battled ankle injuries constantly since the completion of the Olympic Games and recover time is no doubt all that is needed to the level of play which was common in Mills performances last season.
The Spurs won’t be trading Patty anytime soon and Patty does not need to look elsewhere for playing time. Recovery and time to acquaint himself within Spurs rotation is all that is needed here. Aussies are focused on how Patty fares this season after scrutinizing his play across his time playing on Australian shores for the Melbourne Tigers, before his brilliant play for San Antonio last season and finally as the entire country placed their hopes on him leading Australia to a medal in London. The rabid Patty fans down under need to relax, it’s only 21 games into the season.
Through NBA, Olympic and International play across the past 18 months Patty has refined his game and a slow start to the season whilst he overcomes some niggling injuries is nothing Patty nor Aussie basketball fans should be worried about.
The proof of all the hard work Patty has put into his game will be evident during the 2013 NBA playoffs. Patty’s role within the Spurs roster right now has drastically improved since last season. Statistically this doesn’t show but much of Patty’s high scoring games occurred while the Spurs rested key players on its roster.
The games Patty has produced this season, like his 7 point games against both Portland and Memphis (teams with winning records) this season should be viewed just as impressive as his 30+ point hauls against teams out of the playoffs while the Spurs veterans rested.
Patty is set to play a large role this post season for the Spurs, something that was not his role last season. During the 2012 post season when NBA games really matter, Mills game time dropped to a mere 4 minutes a game. Patty’s game and his role in the team has changed drastically since then and what role Patty plays in the Spurs quest for a 5th title will be the real measuring stick this season. As Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobilli, Tony Parker and co. get older San Antonio are looking to the teams young guns Mills, Danny Green and DaJuan Blair to step up in order to compensate for the Spurs aging roster.
Enjoy Patty, Embrace Patty and Support him, but don’t jump the gun, Patty’s best performances in San Antonio are still to come, they’re not in the past!
Its Game Time Bala!
Note: 24 hours after this article was written Patty Mills dropped 15 points and 2 steals in 17 minutes in a game against the Denver Nuggets