After being known more for his towel-waving than his play during the 2012-13 season, San Antonio Spurs point guard Patty Mills emerged as a crucial cog for their high-octane offense during the team’s 2013-14 campaign. Mills put together a stellar season, capped off with a pivotal NBA Finals performance against the Miami Heat where he averaged 10.2 PPG on 54 percent shooting from the field, and an incredulous 57 percent mark from outside during the series.
He was a huge reason as to why the Spurs dismissed the Heat in five games. Heading into this offseason, it seemed like he was destined for a huge payday and perhaps an increase in role with another team willing to throw more money his way. However, shortly after the Finals concluded, it was announced that Mills would miss up to seven months with a torn rotator cuff.
The Spurs still rewarded with him with a big payday, inking the six-foot, 185-pound guard to a three-year, $12 million deal. With Mills now out until at least February, what does this mean for San Antonio moving forward?
They still have Tony Parker manning their starting point guard position. He has done a pretty good job so far with four NBA Championships and a Finals MVP (in 2007) to boot. In his 13-year NBA career, Parker has only played less than 60 games once (in 2009-10). Granted, he is 32 now, but it is reasonable to expect him to play a majority of games for the Spurs this year barring some season-ending injury.
Now the question becomes who should be Parker’s back-up coming into this season. Mills wrestled this position away from Cory Joseph at the start of the 2013-14 season thanks to his strong shooting and quickness. Now that Mills is out for the time being, the most logical choice to take his minutes is Joseph.
After all, it was Joseph’s powerful dunk over the Oklahoma City Thunder‘s Serge Ibaka in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals that seemed to wake the Spurs from their slumber after getting destroyed in back-to-back contests in Oklahoma City. He has shown spurts of promise, and maybe now it is time to see what he can do with consistent rotational minutes.
Joseph is essentially the complete opposite of Mills. Mills can make it rain from outside, slash into the lane, and has an infinite amount of confidence in his shooting abilities. While Mills is a respectable defender, Joseph already has a reputation for being an outstanding one. On offense, he is still developing. His jump shot is average at best, although his penetrating ability has certainly improved during his three year career with San Antonio.
This is a fascinating situation for the Spurs. With Mills now on board for three more years and Joseph understandably wanting more minutes and an improved role over time, this is a perfect time to show him off to potential trade suitors. This is not to say the Spurs have any interest in doing this, as Joseph has known GM R.C. Buford since before he was a Spur, so their connection is strong. However, this is the perfect time for Joseph to showcase his abilities and demonstrate that he can be a legit point guard in this league.
Joseph is only 22 years old, and has already shown great strides in his short career thus far. If he comes into training camp with a vastly improved jumper, especially from the corner three point line, he will be a very attractive player to many teams in the league.
There is always the likelihood that Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich will decide to run some crazy lineups where rookie Kyle Anderson might sometimes run the point. Manu Ginobili can do that too. Even Boris Diaw came into the NBA as a point guard, and still has sick handles even though he is now a dependable big man in the post.
It is now up to Joseph to prove right from the start of this upcoming season that he can not just be a key part to this season for the team, but for many future seasons for them as well.