Off contract at the end of the season, it’s time for Mills to get paid. Big dollars.
The Australian Boomers point guard is earning good money, $1.13 million, with the San Antonio Spurs this season.
He was already having a solid season but after his recent purple patch, averaging 21 points in his past seven matches, Mills should be in line for a big pay rise.
The 25-year-old livewire was electric in the 113-103 win over the Clippers in Los Angeles on Tuesday when he scored 16 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter and then backed that up the following night with 29 points in as many minutes in the 111-109 victory over the Trail Blazers in Portland.
San Antonio were starting to develop a reputation this season as a team which accounted for the easy beats but struggled against the elite sides so these back-to-back triumphs will help eradicate that line of thought.
The NBA has plenty of top quality point guards but there are still many teams which have not settled on their long-term starting playmaker. It’s likely several teams will get their people to contact Mills’ people in the off-season to see if he wants to leave San Antonio.
That’s where he’ll be forced into a big decision.
The Spurs have a lot of highly paid players on their roster and they should offer Mills an upgraded deal to reflect the greatly improved quality and quantity of his court time this season.
Last year when a match was a blow-out, you’d see Mills burning up and down the court trying to impress coach Gregg Popovich in a bid to get more minutes.
Nowadays when a Spurs result is sealed and Pop runs his bench, Mills is being rested alongside the likes of Tim Duncan because he is such a valuable asset, especially with Tony Parker sidelined with his range of ailments.
Mills loves San Antonio. He has worked hard to become an integral part of Popovich’s famed selfless rotation. It would take a huge offer to pry him from the Spurs even though his chances of a regular starting berth in the next few years are limited with Parker still a relatively young veteran at 32.
If another franchise comes knocking with contract numbers resembling phone numbers, on the surface it would appear the easy option would be to take the money and run. But if that team is mired in mediocrity and Mills is unable to lead a renaissance, it could adversely affect or perhaps even prematurely end his NBA career.
How many times have you seen a bench player at a strong team go to another side and become weighed down by expectations? Gary Neal was one of the unexpected stars of San Antonio’s playoff push last season when he scored a red-hot 24 points in the game three finals win over Miami but has almost disappeared without a trace in the anonymity of Milwaukee’s season of under-achievement.
Mills is almost part of the furniture at San Antonio. Although his role is one of the leaders of the secondary unit, his job security would be much better if he stays at the Spurs and he’s a much better chance of seeing post-season action than at most other teams due to Popovich’s amazing ability to extract 50-plus wins per season with relentless regularity. Even when Duncan and Manu Ginobili end their Hall of Fame careers in the near future, it would be a brave/foolhardy person to predict lean times for the only former ABA team which has lifted the NBA trophy.
Whatever the future holds, it’s great to see Mills recognised as a legitimate NBA player. He’s done the hard yards from his time in the college ranks at St Mary’s, an under-used stint at Portland, a short-lived spell with the Melbourne Tigers during the NBA lockout and a testing time of it in China.
It all adds up to great news for Australian basketball and his break-out NBA season is a great example to the likes of Spurs teammate Aron Baynes and Cleveland rookie Matthew Dellavedova on the value of persistence.