Patty Continues To Impress
By mikebarrett Posted in: PattyMills
We talked over and over before the Las Vegas Summer League started that this would be a very crucial time for Patty Mills. The Trail Blazers had Patty under contract last season, when he saw limited action, but was active for their first-round playoff series. He had a couple of stints in the D-League, but came to the summer league with one goal. He wants a contract, from someone.
So far, so good for the guy who broke his foot before last summer's festivities, but was still signed by Portland after training camp.
Tuesday night, Mills was the best guard on the floor, as the Blazers beat the New Orleans Hornets 81-69. The Hornets were very shorthanded, and were playing without Darren Collison and Marcus Thorton. It would have been a very good test for Patty if Collison had played, but he left Vegas to head back to L.A. on Sunday.
Mills looked solid again, running the Blazer offense, setting up others and getting his own shot. Mills was 6 for 9 shooting, had 18 points, and even though he was under control most of the night, did record 5 turnovers.
Everyone knows the Trail Blazers need a backup point guard, and so this is basically an audition for Patty, and for second-round pick Armon Johnson, who Portland just drafted. It's turning into a good battle already, as Johnson has looked solid as well. Against the Hornets, Johnson had 15 points and 5 assists. Johnson isn't as quick as Mills, but is much stronger with the ball. Johnson's strength is getting into the lane, delivering blows, and having a good range out to about 15 feet.
The Blazers have the rights to Johnson, of course, having just drafted him. Patty's situation is a little different. It's been said that Patty is completely unrestricted, and could sign with another team, even today, if he wanted. That's not actually the case. Mills has been given a qualifying offer by the Trail Blazers, but hasn't signed it yet. That's not usual, but it does make him, essentially, a restricted free agent. This qualifying offer is a non-guaranteed contract, so he's basically in the same situation that he was last summer. He'd have to make the team to get a guaranteed, or partially-guaranteed contract.
The plan right now is, Patty will come to training camp and compete for a spot. What could change all of this, is if he were to get a guaranteed offer from another team. Obviously, that's what Patty would love to have happen. He wants to be in Portland, and could force the team's hand if he can play well enough to get an offer from someone else.
Moving on, it was another good performance by Dante Cunningham and Jeff Pendergraph. Dante looked more active than he did Sunday, and had 14 points and 5 rebounds. No one is worried about Cunningham's development, or his numbers from summer league. This is just time to tune up for him. He'll be in the rotation next season.
Pendergraph is a little different, in that he wants to show the team he's ready for some regular back-up minutes at the four or five spot. It is very difficult to evaluate big men at the summer league. We say this every year, and it's still the case. Pendergraph had 11 points against New Orleans, and also grabbed 6 rebounds. He's forcing it a bit on offense, but is trying to show that he can score.
Luke Babbitt looked to be bothered a little bit by a sore Achilles that held him out of practice on Monday. He had 9 points, on 4 of 9 shooting, and is obviously still adjusting to the NBA three-point line. He's got the range, as he showed in his pre-draft workouts, but getting used to the deeper line during games is an entirely different beast. He has shown the ability to get his own shot, and that's important. They ran couple of sets for him last night, in an attempt to get him open looks, and he knocked a couple down.
The Trail Blazers continue play in Vegas on Thursday night when they take on the L.A. Clippers.
The Blazers continue to be in wait-and-see mode concerning Wesley Matthews. The Utah Jazz have until Monday to decide whether or not they'll match Portland's offer sheet. No matter what they decide, they'll take every second allowed to decide. That's just the way the game is played, and keeps Portland's money tied up in the meantime.
The biggest question now is, does the acquisition of Al Jefferson increase or decrease the chances of the Jazz matching Portland's offer to Matthews? Some think it makes them more likely to match, because they are thin at Matthews' spot, and are having a little troubling finding an adequate replacement. Ronnie Brewer, thought to be an easy target for them, is in demand from a couple of other teams now.
But, here's the x-factor, at least the way I see it. Jefferson gave them another power forward, but didn't address the need at center. Clearly, Utah didn't play with a traditional-style center last season, until Mehmet Okur went down in the playoffs. Kyrylo Fesenko is that traditional center, and he played well in the playoffs.
Fesenko is a free agent, and the thinking is now that it's come down to Fesenko or Matthews for the Jazz. They have to decide. It's not going to be both of them. They are sitting at the luxury tax line, so signing either Fesenko or Matthews is going to take them over that mark. They can keep Fesenko and not go as deep into tax land, so that could be the more attractive option for them at this point. And, it's not as easy to find big men, of course.
The Jefferson acquisition, I believe, makes it less likely they will match Portland's offer. They needed something to sell to their fans, understandably, after the Blazers busted out the poison pen for the second-straight summer. Jefferson, even if it is kind of an awkward fit, gives them at least a little bit of a splash. They love Matthews, and want him back, but Jefferson's arrival relieves a little of the PR pressure.
Listening to Utah fans, what has them frustrated is that for the second-straight year the Trail Blazers have proactively set the market for a couple of their players, and have totally changed their salary structure. Don't forget that even though the Millsap offer was matched, the Jazz had to basically dump two players they wanted to keep- Eric Maynor and Ronnie Brewer. It even effectively made it impossible for them to keep Boozer this summer. That offer to Millsap, while seen as a swing and a miss for Portland, was very damaging to the Jazz. This Matthews offer is very painful for them as well, and is causing them to change their entire approach. It's not personal, and they aren't singling out the Jazz. The Blazers are doing it basically because they can, and it helps them.
The Trail Blazers have to proceed as if Utah is going to match, of course. The money is tied up while Utah decides, but they can continue to recruit. The Blazers are meeting on Thursday will the "plan B" free agent. I don't know who that is, at this point. But, they're very excited about this meeting, and feel that if Utah happens to match the offer for Matthews, they'll quickly turn the page and move on.