The return of NBA basketball is fantastic news for all concerned, but there’s a casualty here; Patty Mills.

For the short term, the reasoning behind his move to China was sound. The NBA lockout threatened to wipe out the season, the Chinese league offered a higher standard of competition, and he could earn over a million bucks for a mere four months of work. But, as I mentioned to Robd when the news came down, it was a huge risk for Patty and one that could bite him in the arse if basketball resumed (which was still a possibility at the time).

Prior to the lockout Patty was tendered a qualifying offer by Portland making him a restricted free agent (the $1,171,494 qualifying offer does not guarantee he will remain with the Blazers, but allows the Blazers to retain his rights and match offers from other teams). But his prospects in Portland aren’t good. They traded for Raymond Felton, drafted Nolan Smith and have two other young point guards (Williams and Johnson) on the roster. They’re stacked at his position and it was probably time for Patty to move on.

And the timing was perfect for this to occur. Besides Patty, the best available point guards in free agency are: Delonte West, Jose Barea, Rodney Stuckey, Mario Chalmers, TJ Ford, Earl Watson and Ronnie Price. And that’s it.

Now, compare that with the available point guards in next year’s 2012 free agency: Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Chauncey Billups, Kirk Hinrich, Raymond Felton, Andre Miller, Jason Kidd, Aaron Brooks, Goran Dragic and all the point guards in the 2009 draft class (more on that later). Having locked himself in to the Chinese league season, Patty now joins this group. Good luck with that.

With sparse competition in this year’s free agency Patty was a prime candidate to be ‘overpaid’ so to speak (yes, the new CBA still gives teams plenty of opportunities to hand out bad contracts). Very few teams have a quality back-up point guard, a position of demand, and Patty has proven that he could grow into that role and be successful. I don’t think I am overstating things here, but I think it’s reasonable to suggest that at a minimum Patty could have landed a deal in the two-year $4 million range (which he deserves mind you). So that could be the cost in the short term.

And I hate to pile on, but it’s hard not to draw a comparison with his decision to enter the 2009 draft after only two years of college at Saint Mary’s. It was an odd decision considering that there was an unusually large number of point guard prospects that year, and Patty himself was on the bubble. The following guys were selected in the first round: Tyreke Evans, Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson, Jeff Teague, Eric Maynor, Darren Collison, Rodrigue Beaubois and Toney Douglas. That’s a whopping TWELVE point guards selected in the first round of the draft, which is unheard of.

To put that in perspective, only four point guards (Wall, Bledsoe, Bradley and Elliot Williams (by Portland)) were selected in the first round the following year in 2010. And let’s be honest, only Wall was worthy of the selection.

His decision to enter the 2009 draft (where he was selected 55th overall) most likely cost him a first round selection in 2010 had he stayed another year in college, and with that, the guaranteed contract and higher salary that comes with it. It also jeopardised his place in the NBA, because after suffering an injury during a summer league practice he had to fight like hell just to earn a place on the roster.

I am trying hard not to be too critical here because we’re a big supporter of Patty, but one has to question his decision-making or the advice he is receiving.

At worst, the decision to play in China could cost him millions in earnings. Also, by removing his name from NBA circles and risking injury playing a heavy schedule in China, it could also threaten his NBA future.

Or, as a best case scenario, he could tear it up in China (he’s made a good start), be signed by an NBA team in March when the contract runs out, prove his worth in the playoffs and be rewarded with a big deal in 2012.

Let’s hope it’s the latter.

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