Nets: Kyrie Irving drama could fuel Patty Mills’ Sixth Man campaign

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 27: Patty Mills #8 of the Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 27: Patty Mills #8 of the Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

The Brooklyn Nets figured to be loaded with more talent at the guard position than any other team in the league. Kyrie Irving and James Harden were enough, but with new signing Patty Mills, returning switchblade Bruce Brown, and top draft selection Cam Thomas in the fold, Brooklyn looks ready to absolutely dominate.

But the Nets were dealt a very potent kick in the stomach when it became clear Irving was not vaccinated against COVID-19 (and was really never planning to be). Due to New York City’s restrictions on indoor activities for unvaccinated citizens, Irving might actually end up missing more than half of the season’s games in a true nightmare scenario.

While everyone in the Nets organization from the top down has insisted that they believe Irving being out won’t impact Brooklyn in the regular season, the fact of the matter is that Irving did not attend Nets practice on Tuesday, as the vaccination requirement is already showing how it can affect this team.

If there’s one person who could stand to benefit from this, it’s Mills. While moving Harden to point guard and putting in either Brown or Joe Harris at shooting guard could fix the starting lineup issue, this move could allow Mills to start cooking as the lead reserve for Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Nets: Patty Mills could benefit from a Kyrie Irving absence.

Mills, who came over from the San Antonio Spurs in the offseason, has been the epitome of consistency. While 9.4 points per game doesn’t sound like amazing production, he achieved those numbers while playing behind stars for most of his career in a very slow-moving offense.

His efficiency is where his consistency really comes through. Except for a 2014-15 season in which he struggled with injuries, Mills has made at least 41% of his shots and 37% of his 3-pointers in every season during his decade-long stint in Texas. His best seasons in terms of points per game have come in the last two years.

Mills might not seem like a primary offensive creator, but he’s shown a reasonable degree of aplomb in that regard during his time with the Spurs, and he could put his talents on full display with the Nets. With no Irving, Mills will have almost complete control of the second unit, and that could lead to some gaudy box score numbers.

The Steve Nash offense may be derivative of Mike D’Antoni’s Phoenix attack in some aspects, but one thing he has been able to do to differentiate himself is get more quality scoring production out of his point guards. Rather than being a distributor, Mills will have the green light to get buckets as he pleases.

Mills faces some stern competition from the likes of Kevin Huerter, Derrick Rose, and reigning Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson, but if Mills sets a new career-high in scoring per game while helping the Nets either win the East or come darn close to it, he’ll undoubtedly get some love in the voting process.

With all due respect to Mills, him balling out to THAT degree is not what the Nets expected or even wanted. Irving could solve all of these issues by ending his study at the YouTube University virology school and getting the vaccine, but we don’t know if that will happen in time.

While most teams would come completely apart at the seams when news like this breaks surrounding one of the best players in the game, at least Brooklyn can put the ball in the hands of a consistently underrated, battle-scarred veteran in Mills, who should be capable of providing stability during a very rocky period.