In the summer of 2013, while Detroit was busy severely overpaying for Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, Paul Millsap signed an incredibly team friendly two-year, $19 million contract in Atlanta. A simple Twitter search shows the reaction to the incredible value:
I know I'm baiting here – but who would you rather have: John Wall or Paul Millsap?
— Nathan Walker (@bbstats) July 31, 2013
Paul Millsap should probably fire his agent. Hearing some silly things about his deal with Atlanta.
— Chanse Frenette (@CFrenette12) July 11, 2013
Mike Prada gives the Hawks' Millsap pickup an A-: http://t.co/VBL0ItTlir
— Clint Peterson (@Clintonite33) July 8, 2013
In retrospect, this “A-” rating almost seems low.
Those two years of incredibly cheap production will be over as soon as the Hawks’ season ends, and Millsap will have the opportunity to recover some of the money he may have left on the table. But just how much can Millsap expect to get from a potential suitor? More importantly, how much should Millsap expect to get this offseason? Let’s take a closer look.
Millsap will be 30 for part of next year and has averaged 16 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.6 steals and a block over the past three seasons with a shooting split of 50/36/74. (2PT%/3PT%/FT%) The list of players that have those averages this season with a higher true shooting percentage than Millsap consists of one MVP candidate.
Only one true forward has maintained a higher offensive rebound percentage while attempting more threes than Millsap (Patrick Patterson), and assist percentage shows that Millsap is one of the better passers in the league at that position.
Millsap’s stats are the reason he was selected to his second straight All-Star Game, and it’s difficult to find a weakness in his offensive game. But how much should your team be willing to pay a player who will turn 31 midway through next season?
According to Basketball-Reference.com, 95 percent of Millsap’s threes are assisted, showing his reliance on a system that moves the ball frequently:
This possession is simple enough, but Jamal Crawford would almost certainly shoot if he was put in the same position as Jeff Teague is in this clip. LaMarcus Aldridge would likely take the shot Horford passes up to get Millsap an uncontested look. Russell Westbrook would almost assuredly continue the drive DeMarre Carroll ends to make the initial pass to Teague:
The Raptors don’t have the stingiest of defenses this season (they rank 26th in defensive with a 108 rating), but even this possession with only Carroll and Millsap from the Hawks’ starting lineup causes the Raps so much confusion that they leave the All-Star with a wide open look.
To continue his sustained level of success, Millsap can rule out teams like Orlando that have the cap space to sign him but don’t have a system in place that’s best suited for him.
Defensively, Millsap has qualities that make him less valuable than others, but there are stats where Millsap stands out. Only three players average more than 1.5 steals and one block on the year: Draymond Green, Nerlens Noel and DeMarcus Cousins. Millsap has the next highest combined total at 1.8 steals per game and 0.9 blocks per game.
On-ball defense is the main concern for Millsap. Players are shooting 48 percent when Millsap is the primary defender this season, while the usual shooting percentage of these players is 45.7 percent, per SportVU.
Millsap needs to be paired with a player who can defend outside the paint as well as protect the rim. Millsap allows opponents to shoot 55 percent at the rim on almost nine attempts per game, per SportVU, a poor mark for a player who gets most of his minutes at the power-forward position. Millsap’s spot in Atlanta is a perfect situation, as Horford has the ability to stretch the defense on offense and has improved his defense throughout his years in Atlanta.
This season in Atlanta, Millsap is averaging 17/8/3 with a true shooting percentage of nearly 57 percent. While it’s difficult to find a comparison for him this season, the other players averaging 16 points and 7.5 rebounds with a true shooting percentage of 55 percent are: Anthony Davis, Derrick Favors, Kevin Love, Pau Gasol and Blake Griffin.
Eliminating Davis (still on his rookie contract and sure to get a super-max deal) gives us a good idea of what Millsap can expect this summer. Griffin and Favors were given contracts based on age and potential (an average of $19.5 million and $11.75 million per season, respectively), Love is making $15.8 million this season and Gasol signed a contract worth about $7.3 million on average over the next two years. (Plus a player option for the third year worth nearly $7.8 million.)
While the salary cap is set to explode in the summer of 2016, players can expect a modest rise to about $70 million this summer. The players mentioned before take up on average 21-22 percent of the salary cap. With an estimate of $70 million, this would come out to between $14.7 and $15.4 million annually.
The teams with the cap room to pay Millsap, be competitive and have playing time to entice Millsap include: Toronto, San Antonio (if Tim Duncan retires), Detroit (they aren’t competitive yet, but I’m not betting against Stan Van Gundy), Phoenix, Boston and Atlanta.
My guess is Millsap will receive around $16 million annually, and whatever team signs the two-time All-Star will immediately reap the benefits.