On free agency’s opening night, the Nets secured their lineup by retaining starting center Blake Griffin. Tuesday, Brooklyn beefed up its bench, signing veterans Patty Mills and James Johnson and keeping guard Bruce Brown.
The signing of Mills should put to rest any hyperbolic questions about whether Nets owner Joe Tsai will spend to go all-in for a championship. Brooklyn handed Mills the full taxpayer mid-level exception to pry him out of San Antonio, a two-year, $12 million contract first reported by ESPN and confirmed by the Post that pushes their luxury tax to eye-watering levels.
But it also solidified the Nets’ position as a championship favorite going into next season. That’s a spot Mills is used to after playing a big role on the Spurs’ 2014 championship squad and during their NBA Finals run the year prior. Brooklyn GM Sean Marks is familiar with Mills, 32, from his days in San Antonio as an assistant coach and in the front office.
The deal will bloat the Nets’ projected tax bill from $92.6 million to $121.8 million according to former Nets assistant GM Bobby Marks, now with ESPN. But they’re getting a seasoned, consistent floor general, who averaged 10.8 points on .412/.375/.910 shooting in 24.8 minutes per game last season. He hit a career-high 161 3s.
With Spencer Dinwiddie’s expected departure, Mills can step in as the sixth man and backup point guard. His .413 percent on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers projects he’ll fit in well playing off the Big Three. Mills is currently in the Tokyo Olympics, and has lifted Australia into Thursday’s semifinal against Kevin Durant’s Team USA.