Scaletta’s Summer Top 100 is a ranking of returning NBA players. For a full explanation of our methodology, read our intro.
Paul Millsap is different than a lot of players on the list. None of his numbers scream at you as huge, but when you take them in their totality, he’s an amazingly versatile player. He plays in a system where the ball is distributed evenly, so the numbers don’t reflect all he can do for starters.
More importantly, though, he’s one of those guys who does so many things that the numbers don’t show all he does. He’s one of the most versatile power forwards in the history of the league.
He’s shared the frontcourt with an array of partners including Carlos Boozer (in his prime), Al Jefferson, Al Horford and Derrick Favors. Now Dwight Howard joins that list. What is impressive with Millsap is his ability to fit alongside all of them, demonstrating his value. But Howard might be the best fit yet.
To an extent, Millsap’s ceiling and floor are conditional on the rest of the group in that 11-20 range, as there isn’t a huge difference from the top of that group to the bottom. Because of that, there are factors that may be beyond the players. And arguably no player in that spectrum has had more change around him, particularly a player who hasn’t changed teams. Both his point guard and center are different this year, the next two most important players on the Atlanta Hawks.
Last year, Millsap averaged 17.1 points and 9.0 rebounds per game, but that doesn’t really reflect his versatility. He fills out the whole box score like few have. There are only eight times when a player has averaged 25 points, 12 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.0 steals, 1.5 blocks and 1.0 three-point make per 100 possessions. While that seems like a large spread, that’s the point. Not many players can fill all the holes that consistently. Here’s every time it’s been done:
Millsap has done it each year in Atlanta, matching Chris Webber as the only player to have done it thrice. And when your name starts getting matched with C-Webb for versatility, you’re doing something pretty special. If he can blend with yet another center and do something similar, he’ll be closer to the top of that 20-11 than the bottom.
Millsap’s floor can also be lowered. If Dennis Schroder doesn’t work well in his new starting role or if Dwight Howard has another team where he struggles fitting in, there could be issues. Ditto if the offense has to be re-worked to accommodate the new big man. There are any number of things that could affect the number of touches Millsap gets, and if they do, then his ranking could drop off.
Millsap has a decent catch-and-shoot game (48.8 effective field goal percentage, according to NBA.com), and he can put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket. He’s also useful as a roll man (50.2 percent) in the pick-and-roll. But where he’s at his best is posting up. He used 16 percent of his possessions doing so, and his 1.04 points per possession landed him in the 91.5 percentile.
He’s not only versatile in filling out the box score, he’s versatile in how he can score his points.
Finally, Millsap’s defense is another aspect of his game that’s ubiquitous. Last year, he held opponents to 1.4 percent below their normal shooting percentage, and he was the closest defender on 13.6 shots per game, which was 14th in the league. He defended 3.4 threes and 5.5 shots within six feet per game, and he allowed only 53.2 percent shooting on those shots within six feet, which was 7.6 percent lower than the normal field goal percentage on those shots.
His 3.26 Defensive Real Plus-Minus was second among power forwards, trailing only Draymond Green.
Millsap is not the “best” at anything, but he’s pretty darned good at everything, which is why he’s comfortably in our top 20.