Busting Brackets

Florida State Basketball: Early look at what Caleb Mills brings to Seminoles

Jan 26, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars guard Caleb Mills (2) drives the lane during the second half against the South Florida Bulls at Fertitta Center. Mandatory Credit: John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 26, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars guard Caleb Mills (2) drives the lane during the second half against the South Florida Bulls at Fertitta Center. Mandatory Credit: John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports /
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Caleb Mills (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
Caleb Mills (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images) /

Offensive Strengths

If you were swamped with work during the week and only had a chance to check out Mills for one half, Mills’ dedication to paying close attention to detail on his moves would probably stand out to you the most. Why? Well, because there is a strong possibility that Mills’ speed would not blow you away, but you would appreciate the fact that Mills understands the importance of having top-notch footwork when your nickname isn’t “the roadrunner.”

For example, Mills does an excellent job of driving his right foot forward in a convincing manner during his right-to-left crossover, so that his defenders will instantly jump to their left side (which is Mills’ right side).

Yes, Mills’ defenders may get a hand on the ball every now and then before it reaches his left hand, but because Mills understands how critical that first foot extension is, he isn’t afraid to stretch his right foot out to the point where defenders hastily move toward his right side. The crossover itself is nothing crazy, but because Mills completes all of the major work in advance he is able to relax on his crossover, and give himself a few options most of the time.

The same exact thing applies to his step-back, which is another one of Mills’ moves that defenders struggle to stop. Some guys can get away with driving to their left and executing an awkward-looking step-back, because their swift feet compensate for their non-existent attention to detail on the move. Mills is not someone who is known for having insanely quick feet, but that does not stop his step-back from being deadly.

When Mills is simply driving to his left, he likes to stop and take a significant and steady leap backward (instead of taking one rushed baby leap) while keeping his eyes on the rim, so that he can get into his jumper with little to no disturbance. Mills’ outstanding footwork allows him to remain on-balance when the move is complete, and on schedule with his jump shot.

Mills knows that leaping backward at a rapid pace may cause him to become flustered on his step-back, and throw off the timing and precision of his jumper, which is why he is able to successfully complete his version of the popular move at his own speed.

Mills’ right-to-left crossover into his step-back is even deadlier because although Mills is able to forcefully push off of his right foot during his regular step-back and create separation, it seems like Mills is able to give himself a little more room to breathe when he does it once his right-to-left crossover is finished (most likely because he is in rhythm after the crossover).

By forcefully pushing off of his right foot after his right-to-left crossover, Mills is able to give himself an even bigger boost as he is trying to perform the most effective step-back that he can. It is evident that Mills’ lower body strength allows him to increase the gap between himself and his defenders, which is basically all he is looking to do.

Mills’ one-legged fadeaway is a completely different animal because it is a move that he has clearly spent a lot of time perfecting. To quickly summarize, Mills wants his defenders to think that they have successfully cut him off (when they really haven’t) so that he can stop, pick his left or right foot up off the ground, rise up, and sink the fadeaway with zero problems.

Unfortunately for Mills’ defenders, Mills has the ability to carry out the move while traveling to either side, which means that they do not have the luxury of pulling their right foot back as far as they please and forcing the right-handed guard to execute the move while going to his left (because he will gladly complete it).

When Mills is shot faking and hesitating, he is great at doing whatever is needed in order to get his defenders to bite on those moves. Although Mills’ shot fake may appear to be on the slow side to some individuals, his ability to fully expose the ball to his defenders helps him bait them into leaving their feet and attempting to block/impact his shot.

Mills may have to hesitate for a half-second longer than most guards have to, but doing so causes his defenders to come to a halt, which then allows Mills to gain the advantage over them when he finally decides to take his talents to the basket. Mills comprehends that he would not be doing himself any favors by ending his hesitation before he has frozen his defenders because he would then run the risk of potentially failing his ultimate mission (which is reaching the basket).

When Mills isn’t executing any of the moves that I pointed out previously, he is intelligently waiting for an opponent to get as close as possible to the screen that is coming, so that Mills can keep his eyes in the direction that the screener (who is Mills’ teammate) is trying to send Mills, refuse the screen, and give himself a head start over his opponent (who has to try and recover quickly after paying too much attention to the screen that Mills decided not to use).

Mills’ impeccable timing and patience allow him to stay-put when an opponent turns his head and puts a hand on the screener (which is a tactic that helps players determine where screens are coming from) so that his drive to the basket will be less stressful.

Mills’ 36.5% from three in 2019-20 may not impress everybody, but believe me when I say that Mills is a guy that you want shooting the basketball from deep. His high release point doesn’t give defenders much of a chance to affect his shot when he gets straight into his three-point jumper.

You also don’t have to worry about Mills being unprepared when the ball comes his way, because Mills’ impressive pre-shot preparation is the reason why he can comfortably step into triples without any alarming issues regarding the placement of his feet. I would advise you to disregard Mills’ 25% from three this season because the sample size is too small for an individual to analyze that stat in great detail (Mills was just 1-4 from three-point land this season).

Mills is not a guy that is going to snag a ton of offensive rebounds (averaged 0.5 this season and 0.4 his redshirt freshman season) but you can always count on him to crash the offensive glass once shots go up, and not give up as soon as a body is put on him (or in other words, he has no problem taking a hard step in one direction, and then spinning to the other side if that’ll help improve his positioning). You can thank Kelvin Sampson (Houston’s head coach) for giving Mills an “It is my responsibility to try and give my team second-chance opportunities” sort of mentality when it comes to offensive rebounding.

This final strength may not be discussed heavily when others are breaking down Mills’ game, but Mills is always committed to sprinting down the floor at full speed after made or missed baskets, and turning his head toward the ball-handler just in case he winds up being the recipient of one of his passes.

Nowadays, a lot of players are content with jogging up the floor because they don’t value the importance of giving the ball-handler a chance to advance a pass up to them and maximizing any and every opportunity that they have to convert a basket at the rim, in the mid-range area, or from behind the arc.

That is not the case with Mills, because he is dedicated to trying to get ahead of defenses if possible (even though he isn’t the fastest individual), and helping his team score easy buckets if they are struggling to get it going offensively.