'Tis the season for every NBA team to be interested in every good to semi-good available player. The New York Knicks, of course, are no exception. According to Marc Berman, Patty Mills, a name we've heard mentioned before, is now of particular interest to the Knicks.
The Knicks will look to use their mini mid-level exception to obtain a free-agent starting point guard, and one may have emerged out of the Finals massacre of Miami in Spurs backup Patty Mills.
According to a source, Mills would be intrigued by the idea of playing in New York and increasing his role from Tony Parker’s backup to a more marquee role.
"New York is definitely a city Mills would want to play in,’’ the source said. "He has that personality.’’
Mills, 25, has always been on the Knicks’ radar for this summer, but he could have zoomed to the top after his playoff performance.
Mills's solid postseason and the Knicks' need for a point guard make him an obvious target. The Spurs would probably like to keep Mills, but they've always been pretty firm in not overpaying their back-ups when they receive other offers (see: Neal, Gary).
As Berman mentions, the Knicks are equipped with the mini-mid-level exception, worth about $3.3 million, to try and lure free agents. Given their depth elsewhere, targeting a point guard makes sense, especially with Raymond Felton's struggles last year and Pablo Prigioni's age.
Mills is an interesting name, though, perhaps more so than other potential targets. He's now a player with a championship pedigree, he's only 25, and his exposure to the NBA has been limited. This past season with the Spurs was the first time Mills ever played 80 games in a season and it was the highest minutes per game average (18.9) of his career.
What we do know about Mills is that he likes to shoot and he ain't bad at it. Considering the high volume at which he shoots (he averaged 8.2 FGA in those 19 minutes minutes per game this season), Mills is surprisingly efficient, hitting 45.4% from the field and 40.6% from beyond the arc for his career. This past season with the Spurs, Mills shot 46.4% from the field, 42.5% (on 3 attempts per game) from deep, with a True Shooting Percentage of 58.8 -- a mark that would've been second-best of all Knicks guards last year, behind only Pablo.
And given Mills's tendency to function unlike a prototypical point guard, he could be a solid fit for the triangle. Though Mills's most frequent play last season (according to Synergy) was as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, he excels at other offensive principles that the triangle stresses. For instance, last season Mills ranked sixth in the league in spot-up shooting, generating 1.32 points per play, and he did well in transition, too, averaging 1.21 points per play. As Taylor Armosino notes in his write-up of the triangle, Phil Jackson's Lakers teams were stingy with the ball. In his last two seasons, Mills has turned into a steady ball-handler, averaging just .75 turnovers per game for a solid 10.85 TOV (turnovers per 100 plays).
Though it's tough to compare point guards of different teams, different roles, and different generations, let's look at two of Jackson's favorite triangle point guards, Derek Fisher and Steve Kerr compared to Mills.
Note: Because Kerr and Fisher both played so many years in the NBA under several different coaches, I simply took their first championship seasons under Jackson and compared them to Mills's championship season this past year.
And if you were wondering about how Mills would fare as a starter (which is a possibility on this Knicks team), his per-36 numbers in comparison to Kerr and Fisher's make him look like a far superior player.
Granted, these are different players on different teams in different years, but In general these players look fairly similar: low-usage, efficient shooters (Fisher obviously improved as his career went on) whose "point guard"-type numbers -- assists and turnovers -- are diminished by not being typical, high-usage ball-handlers.
Of course, Kerr and Fisher guys played in the triangle alongside dominant players like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O'Neal. Patty Mills -- should he come to New York -- could potentially be operating in a system in which J.R. Smith and Amar'e Stoudemire are the top scoring options. Therefore, it's a little difficult to speculate how Mills would function with a bigger role on a less talented team.
Also worth noting is Mills's lofty 50% shooting on two-point field goals. This is another solid number for a triangle point guard as the triangle also allows for mid-range and two-point shots, perhaps more than some modern NBA offenses. The Spurs were in the top half of the league in field goals attempted from 15-19 feet and Mills shot well from this area, averaging 43.6%, meaning he can still can it from mid-range if defenses run him off the three-point line.
Mills seems like he could be a good fit for the Knicks. At this point, saying the Knicks are "interested" in a player doesn't mean much, but should they decide to target a free agent point guard with their mini-MLE, Patty Mills would be a worthwhile player to pursue.