Should the Philadelphia 76ers Target Patty Mills in Free Agency this Offseason?

It’s no secret that the Philadelphia 76ers desperately need an upgrade at the point guard position, but could the answer come from down under?

The Philadelphia 76ers are approach an impasse this offseason at point guard. The team will have three players on under contract, but no real answer at the position. Jerryd Bayless will be 28 and coming off wrist surgery. T.J. McConnell will be under contract, but is a long way away from being a scoring threat, and Chasson Randle’s roster spot, and contract are far from guaranteed. Whether the team addressed the position in the draft or free agency it’s clear the teams point guard of the future simply isn’t on the current roster.

Ben Simmons presence puts the 76ers rotation in an interesting position. Many expect Simmons to act as the team’s primary ball handler on the offensive end going forward, but it’s unrealistic to expect a player who’s 6’10 to cover a shifty 5’10 point guard like Isiah Thomas.

Combo Guard

To optimize the rotation’s offensive and defensive efficiency the team needs to invest in a combo guard this offseason who can cover point guards on the defensive side of the ball, and shoot effectively from the wing on offense. While there are a number of promising point guards at the top of the 2017 NBA draft, if the Sixers decide they want a veteran leader at the position they should consider Patty Mills.

Patty Mills is a shifty 28 year old combo guard who plays for the San Antonio Spurs. Standing a diminutive 6 foot tall, Mills is a playmaking point guard with a shoot first mentality, in the vain of Allen Iverson. Though he isn’t nearly the generational talent that AI was, he would bring a unique playing style that is currently absent from the 76ers roster. While he isn’t a lock down defender by any stretch of the imagination, he does bring athleticism that allows him to stay with any of the smaller, shiftier guards in the NBA. Mills is essentially the perfect foil to Ben Simmons; small, elusive, and a proven outside shooter.

Feb 8, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown (L) talks with San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich (R) at the conclusion of the game at Wells Fargo Center. The San Antonio Spurs won 111-103. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Australian Connection

Patty Mills’ name hasn’t come up excessively in regards to the 76ers upcoming offseason, but it probably should be. Mills has a longer relationship with Sixers coach Brett Brown than any player on the 76ers roster. Mills started at shooting guard for the Brett Brown coached Australian National team in the FIBA World Championship in 2010, and on the 2012 London Olympics team.

This relationship likely played a part in Patty Mills’ signing with the Spurs in 2012 after playing two seasons in china, as Brett Brown was the team’s assistant coach and director of player development. Even though it’s been four years since Brown formally couched Mills, there is obviously no love lost between the pair. In a recent interview with Comcast Sports Net after the most recent Sixers Spurs game Mills’ said “I love him (Brett Brown). He’s one of my all-time favorite coaches.”

"JanCory Joseph (6) in the second half at Air Canada Centre. Spurs defeat the Raptors 108-106. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports” width=”590″ height=”389″ />

Offensive Proficiency

One of the best attributes of Patty Mills’ game is his outside shot. Through his 7 year NBA career Mills has a 39% 3-point shooting percentage.  While he has been firmly cemented behind Tony Parker on the Spurs depth chart, Mills’ minutes per game have steadily increased as his career has progressed; now averaging almost 22 minutes per game. In the 2016-2017 season, Mills is averaging a career high 43.5% 3-point percentage, ranking 4th in the NBA. Just to put Mills shooting prowess in perspective he has made 5 more 3-point shots than Robert Covington (91 vs 86) on 66 less attempts (209 vs 275). Mills is a player who can create his own shot, but also can benefit from a well-timed pass

Mills is also a solid offensive player without the ball in his hand. In the article “Aussies in NBA: The understated brilliance of Patty Mills’ screens” by Ben Mallis, Mills screen game is profiled. As the modern NBA becomes more and more reliant on the pick and roll, having multiple players who can set and take advantage of screens becomes absolutely essential. Mills is also no slouch at passing the ball. Over the last two seasons, Mills has averaged 3 assists per game in roughly 21 minutes.

Starter Material

It’s increasingly apparent that Patty Mills deserves to be a starter in the NBA. While the Spurs would love to retain Mills’ services as a 6th man until Tony Parker retires, Patty Mills will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason and will surely be looking for starter minutes. His existing relationship with Brett Brown and his potential role as a mentor for compatriot Ben Simmons makes Philadelphia an obvious free agent destination. The Sixers are in desperate need of a starting point guard and a reliable outside shooter, both roles Mills can surely fill.

Projected over 34 minutes, Mills would average 15 points per game, and 5.5 assists based on his 2016 stats so far. While those numbers aren’t world beaters by any stretch of the imagination, they could serve as a nice complement to the production of Embiid and Simmons, and could prove to be even higher than projected, depending on how defenses choose to play.

Jul 12, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Philadelphia 76ers Summer League head coach Lloyd Pierce talks to forward Ben Simmons (25) on the bench during an NBA Summer League game against the Golden State Warriors at Thomas & Mack Center. Golden State won the game 85-77. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Veteran Leadership

Patty Mills is a 6-0 guard who hails from Canberra, Australia and has played in 412 NBA games. Ben Simmons, a 6-10 point forward from Melbourne, Australia, has yet to make his NBA debut. Both players grew up in Australia, but played their college ball in the USA.

Contrast the fact that Ben Simmons was the 2016 first overall pick in the NBA draft to the fact that Mills wasn’t selected until the second round of the 2009 NBA draft.  He ultimately jumped around between the NBA, the D League and the International League before finding a home in San Antonio. Though Mills and Simmons don’t play the same position, having a player from a similar background could be incredibly helpful for Ben Simmons’ transition, just as Luc Mbah a Moute served as a mentor both on and off the court for Joel Embiid. Though their situations aren’t identical, it could serve a similar purpose.

As the roster certainly stands, Mills could serve as a leader for the Sixers young core of players. Only Gerald Henderson and Ersan Illyosva have played in more NBA games than Mills, and neither is guaranteed to be on the roster in 2017. When you keep in mind that the 76ers could add as many as 3 rookie players in this year’s draft, a veteran leader becomes even more important. Signing Mills doesn’t preclude the 76ers from drafting a point guard early in the NBA draft, instead it insures that the 76ers will have at least one starting point guard who is a proven shooter, and doesn’t force a player to play before he is ready.

Dec 6, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills (8) dribbles in the third quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. The San Antonio Spurs beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 105-91. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Progressing the Process

While Patty Mills has been a bench player for his entire career, he looks primed to sign a deal this offseason that guarantees his starter minutes and starter money. As presented in Chris Lesley’s Sports Agent Blog post “What Could Patty Mills Earn On His Next Contract?” Mills should be in line to receive a contract similar to those received this past offseason by players like Evan Turner or Kent Bazemore: 4 years, 70 million dollars.

Glue Veteran, Not Building Block

At first glance, this is a steep price to pay for a player who does not start in the NBA.  Still,  after the most recent salary cap increase in 2016, NBA Teams are shelling out these dollars for a solid NBA player, i.e. Allen Crabbe. Signing Mills to a 4 year contract doesn’t handicap the team going forward, as the team’s 2017 draft picks will be under the rookie salary cap for the entirety of Mills deal. While he isn’t a foundational piece to build a championship on, he is a solid building block that the team can rely on while their young players continue to progress.

Patty Mills is a shifty 28 year old combo guard who plays for the San Antonio Spurs. Standing a diminutive 6 foot tall, Mills is a playmaking point guard with a shoot first mentality, in the vain of Allen Iverson. Though he isn’t nearly the generational talent that AI was, he would bring a unique playing style that is currently absent from the 76ers roster. While he isn’t a lock down defender by any stretch of the imagination, he does bring athleticism that allows him to stay with any of the smaller, shiftier guards in the NBA. Mills is essentially the perfect foil to Ben Simmons; small, elusive, and a proven outside shooter.

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