2019 NBA Free Agents: Paul Millsap
After a nearly decade-long stint as one of the league’s most underrated players, Paul Millsap found himself on the other side of the coin when he took his talents a Mile High -- I suppose that’s what a $30 million per year contract will do for you. Make no mistake: Millsap is still a very good basketball player, and the type of mature, do-things-the-right-way veteran that an up-and-coming team like the Nuggets would love to have on their roster. Just not at that price point. So while the 34 year old Millsap probably has a few legitimately good seasons left, he’s likely to see free agency when Denver opts out of bringing him back for $30 million more.
Regular Season Stats: 12.6 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 2.0 APG, .484 FG%, .365 3P%, 2.0 S+BPG
Millsap is your consummate glue guy at this stage, doing all the little things that lead to team success, without a lot of drama or spotlight. He remains a good rebounder, and has brought his three point shot to the league average, if not above. He’s an impactful defender, averaging two blocks/steals per game. Years of playing in Mike Budenholzer’s offense in Atlanta have given him an excellent understanding of modern spacing, which he has put to great use around the unique talents of Nikola Jokic. Simply put, a smart, savvy, hard-working basketball player.
He’s a little fragile. Didn’t miss as many games this year as he did last (or, frankly, as many as it seemed like he did) but hasn’t suited up for all 82 since his fourth year in the league -- he just completed his thirteenth season. Due to age - he’ll turn 35 this season - he’s just not the player he used to be: his days as an All-Star are past. Millsap has never been dependent on elite athleticism to excel, so his aging is moderately graceful, but a significant injury could be tough for him to recover from.
Millsap can still start in the Association, of this there’s little doubt, but for him to make a real impact, he needs to find a team that’s got a hole at the four that doesn’t need filling with offensive firepower, but instead the odds and ends; a good team looking to be great, or a young team looking to make the leap.
Possible Landing Spots:
Denver could easily bring him back on a smaller deal. The Nuggets look like they’ll be playing post-season ball for the foreseeable future, and Millsap could decide that he’d like to ride out his playing days in the Rockies, starting for now, and perhaps being replaced by a healthy Michael Porter Jr. starting in 2020-21.
He could make his triumphant return to Utah, where he spent the first seven seasons of his career. Derrick Favors is rumored to hit the market, and Millsap would fit seamlessly next to Gobert. He wouldn’t take Utah over the top, but would put them a point guard away from a deep, versatile starting five at the very least.
If he was searching for a new challenge, he could look east to Brooklyn, who is likely to have some unexpected cap space now that Kevin Durant’s future is up in the air. If Kyrie Irving does sign with the Nets, who better to counterbalance his, shall we say, ‘unique’ leadership style than the consummate professional Millsap. He’d slot in nicely next to Jarrett Allen, and would have a really positive impact on that rising squad.
Alternately, if he decided that he’d made quite enough money, he could decide to chase rings with the Lakers. Millsap would be the perfect drama-free teammate for LeBron and Anthony Davis, and make a fairly devastating frontcourt with them if he was willing to sign for a mid-level exception instead of what he’s really worth.
Millsap’s age is the biggest constraint on his next deal. Instead of making $30 million for this year, I could see him getting $30 million over the next three years, with the final year as a player option. He’d be reluctant to put the third year under the team’s control again after his experience this year, knowing how easy it would be for a team to save $10 million by cutting loose Millsap in his age 37 year.