Patty Mills’ 34 points in 45 minutes on Friday night against Spain might not have come with a win, but it again highlighted his value and heroics as he needed to shoulder a heavy scoring load against a locked in defence.
At the most basic level, the on-court identity of this Australian team in the Andrej Lemanis era stems from the offence. It’s a system that features both ball and player movement and relies on intelligent reads. Through its success, and often visually appealing plays, it has garnered the attention and respect of fans and rivals.
Mills represents the ultimate blend between the Boomers' much-lauded system and his own individual scoring brilliance. He legitimately excels as both an on-ball and off-ball threat in the FIBA setting.
Off-ball, Mills zips around his teammates’ screens, constantly forcing the opposition to watch and react to his every move. A lack of communication, concentration or diligence from the defence leads to confusion, a scramble, and often a score. Speed kills, and Patty has that in both his movement and how quickly he can get his shot off.
Of course, he’s an impactful floor spacer in this environment with his known elite outside shooting. He allows others to find space and time and he’s even had some success setting screens for the likes of Andrew Bogut in the paint, helping to generate close-range attempts.
Bogut’s high-post passing might be the first picture that enters your mind in regard to Australia’s offensive style, but it’s Mills’ dual roles that allows that end of the floor to produce results on a consistent basis.
Patty’s on-ball game can often come out of necessity and it’s his pick and roll or isolation play, as well as the ability to bust out in transition, that gives Australia’s offence an added element that would be missing without him.
Australia IsolationPick and Roll Ball-HandlerTransitionGames 1-7PPPPTSPPPPTSPPPPTSPatty Mills1.28231.03371.4225Others0.92270.63390.8132
(PPP = points per play)
No other player on the current roster can create for themselves on a consistent basis, with any sort of volume, or whilst maintaining an appropriate level of efficiency.
Mills can bend the defence and find shots in key moments when the shot clock is winding down, or when the offence isn’t finding its usual flow. We’ve seen countless example of this over his Boomers tenure and this campaign has been no different.
There was the Mills dagger against Team USA, the pick and roll scoring against France, key isolation plays against the Czech Republic, as well as transition points to release the pressure in the group stage against Lithuania and Senegal.
With this current Australian group now peaking, Patty finally might be set to collect a medal for his country, and perhaps even earn a Most Valuable Player honour.
Whilst there was initial disappointment when the new generation of Australian NBA talent became unavailable, this particular set of circumstances gives the veteran core a chance to put an exclamation mark on their Boomers era.
In a way, this sits well with me.
One final push with Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Bogut, Aron Baynes, and Joe Ingles together as the driving forces, before the younger brigade come in and make their mark.
Together with the coaching staff, this core has encapsulated the Australian way of playing and produced an on-court product that is both successful and appreciated. A medal would be more than well deserved.
After a run of 15, 22, 23, 19, 30, 24 and 34 points, here’s hoping for one more typical Mills MVP performance in China that we’ve come to expect.