By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)
Previous Free Agency Wish List entries:
One of the most heavily discussed topics around the Sixers over the past year has been the idea of Ben Simmons playing point guard. It’s why when talking about the team taking a point guard prospect in the upcoming draft, we hear about their potential to also play off the ball. Or why Jerryd Bayless has been written about more than you would reasonably expect for a veteran journeyman who has played three games with the team. This offseason, Philadelphia would be wise to pursue a slightly more dynamic version of Jerryd Bayless by the name of Patty Mills.
Like Bayless, Mills is 28 years old, but the Aussie is seeking his first big payday in the NBA after making just $3.2M last season in the last year of his deal with San Antonio. Mills is a 39.5% career shooter from behind the arc, including draining 41.3% of his triples this past regular season. Although he’s nominally a point guard at 6’0″, he has plenty of experience playing off the ball offensively, whether it has been Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, or Kawhi Leonard functioning as the primary initiator of the offense over the years.
While he’s not a shutdown defender by any means, Mills has never been a huge negative on that side of the ball. In fact, his net rating of 12.0 was the best of anyone on the 61-win Spurs during the regular season. Although the Sixers will occasionally want to employ lineups with Simmons at the point surrounded by a bunch of tall wings, you only have to look to the recent Bulls-Celtics series to see that you need a smaller guy to cover the likes of Isaiah Thomas in certain matchups. Mills could function as that guy alongside Simmons.
With Tony Parker getting increasingly long in the tooth, San Antonio is certainly going to make an effort to resign Mills. The Sixers should be able to get a meeting though, if they so desire, based on that Australian connection. Patty Mills started for now Sixers head coach Brett Brown on the Australian National team during the FIBA World Championship in 2010 and the 2012 London Olympics. Of course, Brown was with the Spurs when Mills signed with San Antonio in 2012, seemingly a large reason the point guard signed there in the first place.
When the Sixers and Spurs played this past February, Mills had glowing remarks about his former coach,
“I love him. He’s one of my all-time favorite coaches. I remember how passionate he is. He uses a lot of his time and energy to making sure that whatever he’s doing, he gets the most out of it. It’s good when you have a leader or a coach that puts everything into it … I think the word I would use to describe him is ‘genuine.’”
Like San Antonio, the Sixers roster has a heavy international influence, not to mention a fellow Aussie in Ben Simmons. Besides that fact that Mills and Simmons would make a complementary pairing on the court, the two could discuss their favorite bevvies, how to properly cook prawn, and whatever dumb things us Americans do that Australians make fun of us for.
Mills won’t come cheap. As I mentioned, this is his first big shot at a payday so you’re looking north of 8 figures if you want to obtain his services. Still, Mills at $14-15M per year might make more sense than going after somebody like Kyle Lowry, who is a much better player, but a few years older and would command over $30M per year. If Colangelo wants to show he’s out there spending money, Mills would be a great option. He fits the team both culturally and on the court, while leaving the team plenty of flexibility moving forward.
Chant it with me, Sixers fans: “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi, oi, oi!”