Patrick/Patty/Pat Mills is the dark side of Tony Parker. He’s an incarnation of the little demon on TP’s shoulder telling him to jack up ill-advised jumpers, or to execute out-of-control drives. Essentially, he’s Tony as a rookie with delusions of jumpshooting grandeur. All the skills are present for Mills to be a wonderful scoring point guard, but without the expert hand of a Gregg Popovich and the steady support of a Tim Duncan on his side, no one can say whether Mills is fated to follow Parker on the path to stardom or drift into irrelevancy.
Unless Mills gets a guarantee from a team late in the first round, odds are he’ll be back at St. Mary’s next season. That should be a positive move for Mills’ career. Patty still has plenty to prove on an individual level before he’s ready to start on the path to success in the big leagues. He needs to develop his playmaking skills, work on running the offense in the half-court game, and bring his shot attempts down (particularly the contested threes). Mills is a fine shooter and should be excellent in the pull-up game as a pro, but considering he has some of the quickest feet in college basketball, he should really be getting to the rim more. Having a shot that can space the floor is an important trait for a lead guard, but Mills needs to use his quickness to both create easy baskets for himself and draw in the defense to relieve his teammates of tight defense. That is certainly within Mills’ power, but thus far exercising the kind of restraint that could make him an excellent point guard hasn’t been Mills’ strong suit.
There’s nothing wrong with scoring from the point guard position. Tony Parker is the perfect evidence that having a scoring point can still be part of a championship formula. But if Patty Mills is going to emulate Parker’s success, he needs to understand what makes TP such an effective player. If any player that monopolizes the ball is going to reach success on a team level, they need to be either an efficient distributor, an efficient scorer, or optimally, both. Parker is able to score at a very efficient rate because he uses his speed to augment his ability to finish at the basket, and that skill forces entire defenses to take notice of his movements. The assists come as a result of his scoring. If Mills remains inclined to stick to his pull-up game and overly reliant on the long ball, he’ll be much more Aaron Brooks than Tony Parker. In the context of these playoffs, that’s not too bad. But as far as long-term prospects as a NBA point guard, that certainly qualifies as a disappointment. It’s up to Mills to put all the pieces together, because for the moment, he’s very much an incomplete player.
I’ve asked Jon Nichols of Basketball-Statistics.com to use his Box Score Prediction System (BSPS) to project career numbers for Mills. The values given are career averages per 36 minutes, considering that per minute statistics at least partially eliminate variables such as abnormal playing time, lack of opportunity, etc. The projections are based on Mills’ two-year career at St. Mary’s. For comparison’s sake, I’ve dug up some other players who have averaged similar numbers over their careers (click here for an enlarged chart):
(Note: the years indicated in the chart refer to the last year of the season played. For examples, the 2004-2005 season will be marked 05.)
Those are definitely some interesting points of comparison. Mavs fans should be quite familiar with what Jason Terry brings to the table, and there are definitely similarities between Mills and Terry. I doubt that Mills can ever become quite the shooter that JET is today, but both are very quick scoring guards with sweet shooting strokes from midrange and deep, and neither is particularly adept at finishing around the rim or being a true point guard. Jamal Crawford and Joe Johnson are interesting comparisons, but I fear that Mills’ height renders them invalid. Johnson and Crawford are both built to be off-guards, while Mills is coming in at 6’0” flat. That’s going to make everything a bit more difficult as a pro, and to expect Mills to match those two (Johnson in particular) in production seems a bit misguided.