The New Orleans Pelicans are interested in trading for Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap according to multiple reports this evening. Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders went even further to outline the parameters of an apparent offer by Dell Demps and the Pelicans front office. Adrian Wojnarowski and Shams Charania of The Vertical reported that a number of teams currently battling for the Western Conference’s eighth and final seed, including both the Denver Nuggets and Sacramento Kings, are also on the hunt for Millsap.
Pelicans trade talks include offering their 2017 1st rounder (protected), Philly's 2017 2nd rounder (via Ish Smith deal), and salary fillers— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) January 6, 2017
Paul Millsap has a player option for the 2017-18 season, meaning his contract is effectively an expiring one. Any team trading him has to deal with the need to sign him this summer, where he can command a contract from the team owning his rights starting at roughly $35 million and rising. Millsap will turn 32 years old in February and is likely seeking one last big payday ideally in the right location. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent and could potentially bolt this summer.
Short term Millsap is an ideal fit beside Anthony Davis. He would allow the Pelicans to play both small (Davis at the five) and big (two big men) at once and sacrifice very little on offense or defense. Millsap made Second Team All-NBA Defense last season and has been an All-Star in each of the last three years in Atlanta. Current front office adviser Danny Ferry originally brought Millsap to Atlanta in free agency back in 2013. Millsap would be the best teammate that Anthony Davis has ever had in New Orleans.
Long term things are more difficult. Millsap is far older than the rest of the current roster and in a much different place in his career. If coming “home” is important to him, Millsap is originally from Louisiana and attended both high school (Grambling HS) and college (Louisiana Tech) in the state. If he’s interested in competing for championships now, there are much more logical destinations. Sussing out his desires is critical for the Pelicans if they are considering on pulling the trigger because having him walk after forking over substantial assets would be a devastating blow.
Of the potential “stars” the Pelicans could trade for, Millsap may be the most reasonably attainable. Protection on the 2017 first round pick would hopefully cover top three at a minimum. If we believe the New Orleans front office and ownership is unwilling to tank (I do although I believe it is a poor strategy), this is probably the best “win-now” option available.
If everything broke right, the Pelicans would trade for Millsap, scrape into the playoffs, and then likely re-sign both Jrue Holiday and Paul Millsap for a ton of money. Just Anthony Davis, Paul Millsap, and Jrue Holiday could cost in excess of $80 million. That leaves precious little to build a contender around their three main cogs. Ideally New Orleans could turn themselves into a facsimile of Memphis.
Instead, if everything goes wrong? Millsap is 32 years old. We’ve seen what happened to relatively young stars entering their prime under this medical staff. Imagine what could happen to a player with thousands more NBA minutes on his odometer. Even still, when it’s time for Anthony Davis to re-sign with the Pelicans in 2019 do you think a 34 year old Paul Millsap is a selling point? Yeah, me neither.
I will be surprised if Millsap winds up in New Orleans. The Nuggets and Toronto Raptors have far more to offer Atlanta than what the Pelicans currently have on the table. The leak of the offer is probably from the Hawks to drive up the price. If it happens, though, let’s hope everything breaks right. A couple seasons flirting with 50 wins for a change would be fun, right?