Nets trade Patty Mills to shed salary; agree to deal with Dennis Smith Jr. – The Denver Post

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202307021714TMS MNGTRPUB SPORTS NETS TRADE PATTY MILLS SHED SALARY 2 NY5 1

Patty Mills, it was a pleasure.

The Nets traded Mills, the longtime San Antonio Spurs guard whose two-season stint in Brooklyn ended in a deal with the Houston Rockets, on Saturday night. The Rockets then sent the Oklahoma City Thunder Mills and draft compensation in a separate deal on Saturday, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

In a related move, the Nets reportedly reached an agreement with Hornets free agent high-flying point guard Dennis Smith Jr. on a one-year deal at the veteran’s minimum.

Smith enjoyed a resurgence in Charlotte last season, averaging 8.8 points, five assists and 1.4 steals per game off the bench for the Hornets. He adds quality depth at the point guard position, though he only shoots the three ball at a 21% clip.

Nets general manager Sean Marks and his front office staff have been actively cutting salary to avoid steeper luxury tax penalties this summer. The organization decided to move on from Mills, the locker room favorite, in a move that shed the Australian guard’s $6.8M salary for the 2023-24 NBA season.

Mills would’ve reunited with former Nets assistant coach Ime Udoka, who took the Rockets job this offseason following a yearlong suspension with the Boston Celtics. But, the Thunder acquired the guard for his veteran services.

The 34-year-old Mills joined the Nets via free agency in 2021 and re-signed on a two-year deal worth $13.2M last summer. His trade marks the third move the Nets have made since free agency began Friday evening.

Brooklyn agreed to move on from sharpshooter Joe Harris, whose $19.9M salary was shed along with two future second-round picks in a deal with the Detroit Pistons. The Nets then completed their top priority: re-signing Cam Johnson to a four-year deal worth $108M. The move ensures Johnson and franchise cornerstone Mikal Bridges play together at least until Bridges becomes extension eligible in the 2024-25 season.

Moving on from both Mills and Harris was a necessity for a Nets team with a payroll north of $170M before the deals. The Nets shed $27M in salaries with the cap-cutting moves.

Mills averaged 9.7 points per game over his two-year career in Brooklyn, versus the 9.4 points per game he averaged across a 10-season span in San Antonio. He shot the three ball at a 39.3% clip in two Nets seasons, up from his career average of 38.9% with the Spurs and Portland Trail Blazers.

Mills averaged a career-high 11.4 points per game on 40% three-point shooting in his first season in Brooklyn.

Over time, however, the veteran guard fell out of the Nets’ rotation. His shooting efficiency also dropped to just 36.6% from downtown last season, as the quality of his shot opportunities were impacted by the trades that sent Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to Western Conference contenders. Mills averaged just 6.2 points per game in the 2022-23 season and fell below Seth Curry and Cam Thomas in head coach Jacque Vaughn’s rotation.

Mills’ impact, however, permeated further than just the basketball court. He was a favorite among all players who have worn a Nets jersey since his arrival in Brooklyn.

Mills also held a strong relationship with Nets star Ben Simmons, who continues to recover from a lower back injury that has kept him off the court. He had been integral in Simmons’ progression last season before a setback ended Simmons’ season at the All-Star break.

As for Smith, the deal is a low-risk, high-reward move for a player who was a double-digit scorer for each of the first two seasons of his career. The guard averaged a career-high 15 points per game as a rookie with the Dallas Mavericks but didn’t mesh well with franchise cornerstone Luka Doncic.

The Mavericks traded Smith to the Knicks the following season, but the guard struggled to find minutes in Tom Thibodeau’s rotation.

Smith is coming off of his best season since his sophomore year and could provide a punch for a team that needs scoring and defense at the point.

The Nets aren’t expected to be finished adding to their roster. Armed with eight tradeable first-round draft picks and a number of playoff-tested veterans, Brooklyn is a perfect trade partner — either in a deal for a star or as a third team to help facilitate such a deal.

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