A devastating injury to Carlos Boozer looked like it could spell doom for the Utah Jazz this season. But Jerry Sloan wasn't worried. He had an ace up his sleeve. The NBA was about to discover something already well known to Jazz fans. Paul Millsap can play some mighty fine basketball.
Inserted into the starting lineup just weeks into the season, Millsap played like a man possessed. Millsap put together an impressive string of nineteen straight double doubles. He almost single-handedly kept the Utah Jazz in contention as the team weathered nagging injuries to Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur. Millsap played like a big bowling ball in the post, pushing himself to offensive rebound after offensive rebound. Listed generously at 6'8'', Millsap did yeoman's work against players half a foot taller than him. The national media took notice and word spread around the league. Finally, the Utah Jazz had a big man who not only wanted to play defense, but one who seemed to thrive off of his defense. Watching Millsap and Kirilenko swat balls away from the basket was a sight for Jazz fan's sore eyes.
As we rolled into late February, Carlos Boozer was set to return to the Jazz lineup. How would Millsap adjust to life back on the bench? On February 23 we seemed to have the answer as Millsap put up 16 and 12 in a big win over Atlanta. In the next few games, Millsap didn't put up the big double doubles we had come to expect but few people seemed to notice. Why? Because the team was riding a twelve game winning streak. Second place in the west was once again looking like a very real possibility. At this point, Carlos Boozer was getting his starting minutes back and Millsap was once again relegated to back up duties. The team struggled, losing seven of it's last nine games and quickly got bumped in the playoffs to the superior Los Angeles Lakers. But Paul Millsap had made his point. He deserves to be a starting Power Forward in the National Basketball Association.
As we head into the offseason, Millsap is one of this teams biggest free agents. The argument among the fans and in the Front office is going to be about who this team should bring back. Millsap is going to get paid by someone this offseason and it seems highly unlikely that the Jazz will bring back both he and Carlos Boozer. I won't make an argument for or against Boozer here but I just want to add some stuff about Paul Millsap. For the third straight year he improved his stats in almost every category. His free throw shooting has improved to 70% and he showed off a fairly consistent mid-range jump shot. His PER of 18.6 was good for second best on the team. He finished sixth in the NBA in Offensive Rebounds and tenth in field goal percentage. He toughed it out and only missed six games due to injury. It's just his third year. He's only 24. He's only going to get better.
Not too bad for an undersized power forward picked in the latter half of the second round.