The San Antonio Spurs have been busy this off-season. Patty Mills finds himself as being one of only two pieces remaining from the Spurs’ championship run four seasons ago. He enters 2018/19 on the back of arguably his strongest season, where he played for the first time in his career, a full 82 games.
Last season saw Patty move back and forth between starting guard and as his usual spark plug bench scorer role. Despite having started more games than he has had in his career, the Spurs showed faith in young defensive guard Dejounte Murray on more occasions. It looks as though the Spurs see Murray as their future, but Mills saw an uptick in minutes averaging a career high (25.1 minutes per game).
Patty finished the season on a high. Across five games against the Warriors in the playoffs, he averaged over 30 minutes per game and knocked down an impressive 13.4 points per game. His maturity with the ball and ability to stretch the defence, provided the Spurs with a nice one-two punch between himself and Murray.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) April 17, 2018
San Antonio enters this season with a few question marks over their heads. They essentially moved on from the old guard; the departures of Tony Parker (via free agency to Charlotte) and the retirement of Manu Ginobili, and essentially are adding responsibility onto Patty’s shoulders.
The addition of DeMar DeRozan provides the Spurs with a new star. Their mid-range game will be tight, DeRozan should work well with star forward LaMarcus Aldridge and provide a potent scoring combo. Whilst there is no lack of veteran presence within the roster, the faces are new and there is a breath of youthfulness within the squad.
Patty has played under Pop longer than any other member of this squad, which makes him a leader within this season’s Spurs squad. It’s not just his performance on the court, but Mills’ impact might be felt the most within the locker room.
In August, Patty turned 30. This coming season marks his 9th year in the NBA. He walks into preseason as the most experienced Spur on the roster. This season, it is important for Patty to improve and build upon what he started last season.
Mills has a couple of roles in which he could fill this season. It would be fantastic to see Mills lead the second unit along with returning Spur Marco Belinelli. The San Antonio bench contains fresh and inexperienced faces in Lonnie Walker and Derrick White, and having veteran leadership on the reserve unit could make all the difference for the Spurs.
An aggressive defender, Mills is one of the first to be rolling around on the court, but he lacks size. He is elusive with the ball and can get around defenders who are focusing on larger threats. Last season he showed a newfound ability to get to the rim, and found himself on the free throw line more times than ever before. Combine this with his reputation as a sharpshooter, and his game could be primed to ascend to yet another level.
Much as the Spurs would like to keep starting Mills next to Murray, to take advantage of his shooting and to utilise Patty’s experience in the starting lineup, Murray’s ACL tear throws a wrench into this idea.
Spurs: DeJounte Murray has a torn ACL.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 8, 2018
There’s no doubt Mills will take a chunk of what used to be Parker and Ginobili’s minutes. To see him take over as this team’s ‘player-coach’ would be huge compliment for Mills, especially from where he has come from. You would imagine Popovich to lean on Mills to set the team straight and ease up on transition time.
Whilst expectations may be higher, there may not be a lot of change to Patty’s overall performance. This season though is a chance to be arguably his most important for the Spurs organisation. It’s an exciting outlook for a player who joined the team as a perennial towel waver, to what looks like an important role in the Spurs team.