NBA Regular Season 2012-2013, Game 6:
Utah Jazz (2-3) @ Denver Nuggets (2-3)
Player Focus: Paul Millsap
Kenneth Faried. Yes. The first sentence in this article about Paul Millsap is Kenneth Faried. Everyone is on this guy's jock right now. The "Manimal" is so freeking awesome. He's so athletic, he has energy all day, and no one can out hustle him. Faried is a good young player, with some nice numbers. He's a beast on the glass (20.6 offensive rebounding % this year, career of 19.8 total rebound % -- this means that for every five misses when he's on the floor, he's getting one of them). He shoots a crazy good percentage from the floor (56.9 fg%). He is super active and gets steals, blocks, and deflections. And he can run the floor and finish plays with ferocity.
Isn't this guy just what Paul Millsap *used* to be? If you look at what Faried is doing now (age 23) and what Sap did at that age you see that they are pretty much the same dude. Faried is just playing more.
But everyone loves him -- but where was the national love when Millsap was doing it? I guess I'm being a hipster here -- I liked Kenneth Faried back when he was called Paul Millsap. But whatever, it is true. Faried is an energy guy who is playing well, who doesn't take bad shots, and has a very limited set of skills. The Manimal is shooting 27.3 ft% right now, and doesn't have three point range. He doesn't dime to anyone. And he doesn't have ball handling skills.
So in a way, he's a worse version of what Paul Millsap is today. Not just a younger version.
Millsap needs to be up to this challenge though. He's battled quite a bit in his career and seems to be less of an energy guy. And seems to be less efficient. (Seems to . . . we all know that he's still the dude getting clutch offensive rebound put-back dunks with time running out, like he did vs. Dallas last year in that double OT game) So far this season Paul isn't playing as well as we would want him to. Not because we have unrealistic expectations for him; no. But because we know how good he is because we've seen him work on his game to have very few weaknesses.
This season he's shooting a career low from the field (43.1 fg%) which is a far cry from his career averages of 52.1 fg%. He's also taken a step back from the FT line, making only 72.2 ft% this year, after shooting 80% for most of last season. He is shooting the long ball more this year though, so that could play into both problems -- and he's gone 5/7 in five games so far.
But it's not just more offense we want to see. (He showed us in the last game that he's fine on offense, and can find ways to contribute beyond shooting the ball -- he has a way better BBALL IQ than he is given credit for) We want to see more of that ferocity on defense as well. He was our best defender in the post Andrei Kirilenko years. Now it looks like we're ready to give that title to Derrick Favors. The old Sap was asked to guard everyone from Carmelo Anthony to Kevin Garnett. Tonight he'll be stretched even more as he'll have to deal with their slew of tall SFs who can stretch the floor and put the ball on it. (Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler primarily)
Tonight has the possibility to be a big game for Paul. And for his sake, I hope he brings it. If the last few games against Denver are any indication, we're probably going to be in for a big night from him.
And at least for one night, the NBA Hype Machine will recognize that Thrillsap >>> The Manimal.