The Utah Jazz drafted Paul Millsap back in 2006 with the 47th pick. Coming out of Louisiana Tech, the same power forward academy that helped create Karl Malone, P.J. Brown, Jackie Moreland, Mike Green, and Randy White, he was a limited player who was known as a hustle guy. He did lead the NCAA in rebounds for each of the seasons he was there, but he has blossomed in the NBA.
Today he’s more than just a rebounder who scored on offensive rebounds. He can steal the ball and make the right pass in transition. He can post up. He can face up - extending from midrange to now three point range. And probably most important in this transitional era of the NBA, he’s strong enough to defend taller players but quick enough to defend wings.
Millsap will be 32 in February. He’s in his prime, having played over 15,000 minutes in Utah and nearly 10,000 with the Atlanta Hawks. (Regular season and playoffs combined) Thrillsap has also been a three time All-Star (albeit in the East), and was on the All-Defensive team once. He’s a veteran player who should be lauded for his versatility. And while he’s not having the best year of his career in 2016-17, he’s still averaging (rounding up) 18 / 8 / 4 / 1.5 / 1 in 34.1 mpg. His shooting isn’t blowing anyone away right now, .444 .318 .760; however, it’s clear that he’s transformed himself from a raw energy guy to being one of the most prototypical power forwards in the game today.
And he is going to opt out of the last year of his contract, making himself an Unrestricted Free Agent this July.
Atlanta Hawks power forward Paul Millsap to opt out at end of season to become an unrestricted free agent, league sources told ESPN.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) January 1, 2017
Atlanta is paying Dwight Howard over $23 million a season, Kent Bazemore about $18 million a season, and Dennis Schroder $15 million a season (starting next season). That’s your center, a wing, and point guard. A cap is not an issue for the Hawks, mainly because so many of their players are going to be free agents this summer: Tiago Splitter, Kyle Korver, Hris Humphries, Thabo Sefolosha, and Mike Muscala. All of those guys are going to be Unrestricted Free Agents. And add to that list Millsap.
It appears that the Hawks brain trust aren’t crazy about losing a player of Millsap (or Korver)’s level for nothing. You know, not unlike what Kevin O’Connor did with the Jazz when he let Millsap and Korver both walk while getting nothing for their expiring deals except for cap space that he would use to carry on bad contracts for future picks. (Something teams don’t need to do anymore with the size of the upcoming salary cap.)
Over the last few seasons the Hawks went from a 60 win team to a team depleted by Free Agency — most notably losing former starters Al Horford last season and DeMarre Carroll the year before. Losing guys for nothing sucks, unless you have someone you want to promote behind them. I don’t think the Hawks have that right now for some hotter, younger, PF prospect.
Even in the case of Jeff Teague, a veteran point guard they moved in order to give the keys to Dennis, the Hawks weren’t rushing to make that move. They entreated multiple calls since Teague was put on the trading block — but eventually didn’t trade him away at the Trade Deadline, instead opting for a three team pact with the Indiana Pacers and Utah Jazz right before the NBA Draft after the season had finished.
I don’t know if that’s a possibility for Millsap — can they trade him in June if he’s going to be a free agent in a week? Probably not. So the situation is different now for Sap (and others) who are now in contract years. And the Hawks may need to re-load now instead of expect to make big moves in free agency. (The Hawks are 1.0 games above .500 right now in the East) (So that means they are probably going to win the conference because the East is Easy.) (#TheEastSucks)
Who knows what Millsap wants, aside from more money (clearly). This is what Gordon Hayward is doing as well -- but we don’t doubt Hayward’s devotion to the franchise. In fact, the Jazz are pretty much banking on keeping him. Does Atlanta feel the same way? The rumors don’t seem to support that theory.
They may not be motived to make this move, but it’s certain that the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns are interested. The old Jazz would somehow get in on this by trading away and/or for Greg Ostertag in something like this. But today the Jazz have a number of guys in contract years as well beyond Hayward: George Hill, Boris Diaw (next year is partly guaranteed), Shelvin Mack, Joe Ingles, and Jeff Withey.
I think Utah wants to keep Hill and Hayward. If Ingles can be had for a value contract I think they want him there in the long term. I’m not so sure about Diaw (a former Hawk), Mack (a former Hawk), or Withey (a former Jayhawk). Utah has some other guys out there who COULD start for Atlanta who are under contract for a bit — Derrick Favors, Joe Johnson, and Alec Burks are the main candidates for mention because they are all making eight digits in their contract and have some ties to Atlanta. (Favors is from there, Johnson was a star there, and Burks is . . . uh . . . okay, I have nothing. He’s from Colorado.)
But from what we know about the Hawks and the trades they do say yes to, you need a lotto pick, potentially some youth, and a name player back in return. And I don’t know if the Jazz are willing to mess up their chemistry right now by adding someone who would so obviously fit Quin Snyder’s offense . . . but at the gamble that it’s only renting him for half a season.
No doubt Dennis Lindsey and his people are finding out a) how likely is Atlanta to move Sap, and b) what other teams are offering. You always look at the opportunity to improve your squad. Returning Millsap to Utah would be fun. But I don’t know if that’s going to happen right now.
What do you think?