After playing nine seasons and winning one championship with the San Antonio Spurs, Patty Mills signed with the Brooklyn Nets for the taxpayer’s mid-level exception. Mills, with the Spurs since 2012, didn’t fit the extended timeline of San Antonio’s path toward contention, paving the way for him to chase another title alongside Kevin Durant and James Harden in Brooklyn.
Mills has increased his production to 14.3 points per game this season, up from 10.8 a year ago. He has been one of the best three-point shooters in the league with a 44% mark on 3.3 conversions a night. Moreover, the lengthy absences of Kyrie Irving and Joe Harris haven’t killed the Nets in large part due to the impeccable numbers of Mills.
Durant and Harden are still putting up gaudy numbers and Steve Nash deserves immense credit for Brooklyn’s surprisingly stout defense, but it’s Mills who’s been the X-factor for the best team in the East—and deserves to be a serious contender for Sixth Man of the Year.
Excellent long-range marksmanship
Mills has always been known for his shooting prowess, but has still found a way to elevate it in his first season in Brooklyn. His 3.3 three-pointers per game are an easy career-high. Even with increased volume, Mills’ accuracy has increased as well because Durant and Harden are able to find him in perfect spots to swish numerous shots every game.
On a team with two full-fledged superstars, let alone three, role players who fulfill their duties when defenses focus on their more dangerous teammates are instrumental. Harris had been struggling before his injury and even in the 2021 playoffs, but having Mills at their disposal this year gives the Nets more options come playoff time.
Flourishing in clutch situations
With Harden missing numerous games already, Durant also needs a complementary piece he could rely on in crucial junctures of games. He can definitely take over crunch-time through his patented pull-up jumpers, but having Mills in either corner gives Durant more room to operate because his man cannot afford to leave him open.
In two of their recent games against the Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Lakers, Mills hit timely triples late that shut the door on any lingering comeback hopes. Mills is known to convert baskets when momentum is with the opposition, pressure under which some players crumble. Mills’ penchant for clutch shot-making could swing the tide to the Nets side in a playoff series, making his signing a very underrated one.
Ability to create shots for his teammates
Even if his assist numbers are not at a high level, Mills is a veteran, heady player who makes the game easier on his teammates by setting screens and moving the ball for hockey assists. Mills’ playoff experience with the Spurs will loom large for the Nets come April, his off-ball movement and canny cutting ability providing impact that’s not always reflected in the box score.
Harden is still the main catalyst in setting up the Nets offense, but Mills could also bring down the ball and become a secondary ball handler for Brooklyn. His ability to contribute in multiple facets offensively should be an integral factor for awards voters to consider. Additionally, Mills could adjust to pretty much any role given to him by Nash if Irving never returns to the court.