It’s an undeniable fact that Mo Williams is about as frustrating a player as they come. While I respect him, and the production we’ve received from him off the bench, some of the moves he decides to make are unbelievably boneheaded, leaving him at the angry wrath of Blazer fans all too often. However, it’s also unquestionable that the Blazers wouldn’t be in the position they are in now without Williams, as there hasn’t been sustained bench production all this season. This second round of the playoffs, our opposition, the San Antonio Spurs, will be sporting a familiar face. Patty Mills, the once seldom used point-guard in the Nate McMillan era, has returned under Gregg Popovich and the veteran guards of the Spurs. So much so, Mills has emerged as a viable threat playing in Popovich’s system.
Williams provides a stable veteran presence for the Blazers; a veterans instinct that should only grow with time spent in the league. However, in limited time Mills has already become a fantastic team player, one that is always the first one there to pick a player up off the floor, one that is always the first there too congratulate his teammates on the bench and has been made even more famous for his work for the team with his towel-waving abilities.
Even though Mills provides a veterans instinct beyond his years, it doesn’t lessen the work that Williams does. Williams provides the veteran leadership every team needs, and on a young Blazer squad, his 11 proven years of NBA experience really matter. His ability to lead the younger players, with instructions and criticism will help push the Blazers past the well-drilled San Antonio unit.
Without doubt, the greatest offensive asset to each players game is their ability to score. Williams thrives with the ball in his hands, and loves nothing better than holding the ball up for 20 seconds, then creating his own shot. In transition Williams is most effective. He can push past the defense for an easy lay-up, pull-up jumper or make the right pass when running a 2-on-1 break down the court. When he gets the ball moving however, magic happens. Not only do the Blazers possess that whole “extra pass” mentality, Williams is also a capable threat from beyond the arc, leaving the Blazers with either 3 or 4 capable long-range options.
While he hasn’t had the mind-blowing, amazing, point-scoring performance that Mills may have had, he stays within the system, and hits some pretty insane and memorable shots in the process. Passing isn’t his main role in the offense, but he is capable of producing some pretty amazing ones.
After receiving almost the cruelest of criticism from my favourite coach of all time in Gregg Popovich, Mills has become a more-than solid back-up for the Spurs this season.
“He was a little fat ass. He had too much junk in the trunk. His decision making wasn’t great, and he wasn’t in great shape. He changed his entire body. He came back svelte and cut and understood you have to make better decisions, point-guard type decisions. He did all those things better and he earned it. He’s been real important to us, obviously.”
Now, Mills is back. He’s learned how to run an offense, score the basketball, create his own shot and more importantly play some insane defense. This third season with the Spurs has Mills shooting with ridiculous efficiency. He hits 42.5% of his attempts from deep and hits 89% of his shots from the foul-line, both career highs (minimum 50 games played in a season). These high shooting percentages have concluded with a 18.7 PER rating, as well as an offensive rating of 115, both personal bests in his career.
On defense, Mills is smart and calculated. He hustles and dives onto loose balls and sneaks up behind players like they never saw him coming – thanks to his lateral quickness and leaping ability – leading to steals and blocks, which lead to quick transition opportunities down the other end where he excels..
As much as I love Patty Thrills, and his improved game this season, I believe it’s still a by-product of Gregg Popovich’s system for now. If he could bring this all-round game to Portland, I would love it, but I just don’t see it happening. However, I still think the Blazers organization made a mistake by letting Mills go, especially so soon.
Even though Williams gives me numerous heart palpitations while he’s on the court, for the good and the bad, he’s still the better fit for the Portland offense, no matter what stick some fans may wave at him. It’ll be intriguing nonetheless, if Williams displays a better performance than Mills throughout this series, otherwise I will be thinking twice.
Even more so because I love my Australian counterpart.