Free agent power forward Paul Millsap has signed a three-year, $90 million deal with the Denver Nuggets. Here are the winners and losers from this signing.
One of the bigger pieces left on the free agency market has found a new home. Four-time All-Star power forward Paul Millsap has left the Atlanta Hawks in his unrestricted free agency to sign a three-year, $90 million deal to play for the Denver Nuggets. Shams Charania of The Vertical was the first to break the story.
Millsap was going to command a near-max, multi-year offer on the open market. Though he liked playing in Atlanta the last four years, the Hawks are beginning a rebuilding project. There really is no reason for him to waste these last few years of his prime playing for a sub-.500 team. By going to Denver, Millsap will be playing for a club that will be in the playoff mix out West.
Now that the dust has settled and we now know that Millsap is going back to the Rocky Mountains to play for the Nuggets, let’s see who the winners and losers are of this free agency signing for The Anchorman.
Winner: Paul Millsap’s bank account
A big winner here is Millsap’s bank account. For a guy that will be turning 33 during the 2017-18 NBA season, getting $30 million annually is a huge get for the All-Star level power forward. This isn’t Millsap’s first big contract, he had signed sizable ones in Atlanta.
However, there is no debate that he has set up a lifetime of wealth for his extended family. Good on Millsap for getting every penny he earned busting his tail these last several years. Hard work really does pay off.
Loser: Mike Budenholzer
We have to feel sad for Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer. Back in 2013, Budenholzer and Millsap arrived together in Atlanta and did some good things together. Millsap was Budenholzer’s best player over the last four years and his greatest player development project to date. Not to say that Millsap didn’t put in the work, but he came out of Atlanta better than he was when he arrived there four Julys ago.
This isn’t a devastating loss for Budenholzer, he is one of the better player developers and defensive strategists in the game today. However, he’s going to miss Millsap. On a team full of kids, Millsap was the Steady Eddie that Budenholzer leaned on to win a ton of games these last four years.
Winner: Travis Schlenk
The biggest winner in the long-run for this deal might be new Hawks general Travis Schlenk. During the 2017 NBA Finals, Schlenk left his front office job with the Golden State Warriors to come to Atlanta and rebuild the Hawks. He has made major shakeups already by trading starting center Dwight Howard to the division rival Charlotte Hornets and letting Millsap walk to Denver.
It’s a bold strategy, Cotton, but hopefully, it pans out for Schlenk and the Hawks organization. For as much as the Atlanta faithful may not be entirely on board with a rebuild, at least Schlenk is being consistent in his rebuilding efforts. He doesn’t want older players on long-term contracts. That would have been the case for Millsap and that’s why he is now playing for the Nuggets.
Loser: Paul Millsap’s All-Star opportunities
While Millsap’s 401K is starting to get to the level of utmost ridiculousness, he may have cost himself two or three more All-Star opportunities by going West to Denver. Not to say that Millsap was a lock to make All-Star teams in the Eastern Conference, but it’s certainly tough sledding now that he’s in the West.
Only the top-12 players in each conference make the All-Star Game. He is now playing in the West with some serious studs at all positions. Had he stayed East, it would have increased his chances to build up his so-called Hall of Fame candidacy. If he re-upped with the Hawks, maybe his No. 4 jersey would be hanging from the Philips Arena rafters.
Of course, he had to take the money and play for an on-the-rise contender that needed an upgrade at the four in Denver. He might even think about winning a championship in Denver with the Nuggets. Who knows? However, he’s probably done making All-Star teams and that’s sad.
Winner: Nikola Jokic
While Denver gets better by default by signing Millsap, nobody benefits from him coming west more than Nuggets star center Nikola Jokic. Millsap is the unique personality that fits in marvelous to what the Nuggets need and are trying to do. He operates with a lunch pail mentality of got to go to work. Millsap’s ironclad work ethic has transformed him from a decent starter on a bad Utah Jazz team into a top-25 player on a perennial playoff team in Atlanta.
In short, Millsap can best show Jokic how to put in the work to be a winner. They will make a ferocious frontcourt tandem in Denver for at least the next three years. Millsap is adept on both ends of the floor. He thrives in isolation on offense but is able to create plays for other to some extent. Along with Draymond Green in Golden State, Millsap might be the most versatile power forward defensively in the game today.
The last part to why Millsap makes Jokic better is that Millsap can fit into any frontcourt and thrive. He was pure muscle down low for bad Jazz teams. Next to finesse Al Horford in Atlanta, he would rim protect and expand his game offensively. Next to frustrating Dwight Howard, Millsap played more of a stretch four. Unless Jokic is unwilling to listen, Millsap will make him a better player from the jump.
Loser: Atlanta Hawks
The big loser in all of this is the Hawks organization and frankly their fans. Atlanta had rattled off 10 straight Eastern Conference Playoff berths. Only two years ago the team won 60 games, the Southeast Division and reach its first conference finals since switching conferences in the early 1970s. Now Atlanta is starless and facing a long-term rebuild.
At least the Hawks aren’t the Brooklyn Nets, right? They have a capable point guard in Dennis Schroder, a promising small forward in Taurean Prince and maybe Schlenk found a gem in first-round pick John Collins out of Wake Forest. That being said, we can no longer pencil in Atlanta into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Unless the rest of the conference continues to get poached by the West in free agency, it’s hard to see Atlanta being anything close to a top-eight team in the East next. It’s truly the end of an era in Hawks basketball.