patty mills nets
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

With no Kyrie Irving for the Brooklyn Nets, it’s Patty Mills who is stepping forward to help Kevin Durant and James Harden.

Danny Small

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last month, you know that the Brooklyn Nets are playing without Kyrie Irving. Brooklyn’s third star is away from the team due to his vaccination status and his absence means others on the roster must step up.

To be clear, Kevin Durant and James Harden are still talented enough to lead the Nets to a championship sans Irving. It won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible. Durant is averaging 31-10-6 through four games and Harden is starting to find his rhythm after a slow start.

We know that Durant and Harden will be fine with or without Irving. However, they won’t be able to win by themselves.

Enter Patty Mills.

For the most part, Brooklyn was applauded for bringing Mills into the fold. He’s a cagey veteran who spent years Still, no one knew just how important this signing would become.

Mills, 33, is Brooklyn’s third-leading scorer (14.5 ppg), only trailing — you guessed it — Durant and Harden. Although Mills has failed to show off his mid-range touch and craftiness in the paint, he’s getting it done from beyond the arc.

The 12-year NBA veteran is currently 16-for-25 from deep and he was a perfect 10-for-10 to start the season. His ability to run full speed around a staggered screen, catch in rhythm, stop on a dime, and drain a three-ball is adding an extra element to this Nets offense.

In fairness, the Nets already had Joe Harris filling that role, but it becomes a lot more difficult to defend when there are two three-point assassins running around like maniacs. Nets coach Steve Nash can play them together or stagger their minutes in order to keep the defense on its toes.

While Irving is out, Mills and Harris are the third and fourth most important players on the team, respectively. This isn’t meant as a slight to Harris. He’s the better, more consistent three-point shooter, but Mills has a bit more wiggle to his game.

When we think of versatility in the NBA, the image that pops in our head is usually a long wing who can guard multiple positions. Mills is a different kind of versatile.

The Aussie can do more to fill those size 12 Nike Irving 8’s. When Mills is on the floor with Durant and/or Harden, he can focus on running around the three-point line with his trigger finger ready. If one of those guys (or both) are off the floor, he can flex to a more traditional point guard role where he initiates the offense.

It’s easy to overreact when the season is in its infancy, but this isn’t the case here. It’s become quite clear that Patty Mills is the third most important Net for however long Kyrie Irving is away from the team.