With Kyle Korver on his way to the Cleveland Cavaliers, all trade rumors have zeroed in on another Atlanta Hawk, Paul Millsap. At a minimum, the 3-time All-Star has been linked to the Raptors, Nuggets, Kings, 76ers and even our very own Pelicans. However, it’s time to pump the breaks a little because potential red flags signal he’s not the smartest choice for everyone on the list.
There is no denying the fact that Millsap remains a fantastically productive player and has widely been considered a top 25 player in the league since arriving in Atlanta. He sits on a tier famous for opposing coaches loving and hating him at the same time. Any organization fortunate enough to add him will undoubtedly reap immediate benefits as he’s a tried and true 2-way animal whose professionalism is rarely paralleled in the NBA.
I totally get the appeal, but I’ve been hoping the Pelicans would not wind up the winners of the Millsap sweepstakes, and at last report, New Orleans doesn’t seem destined to beat out other suitors.
So if you're trading for him now, you're giving up assets now & paying $140m this summer. Hearing NOLA isn't up for that— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) January 6, 2017
This is very good news. In my opinion, Millsap wouldn’t move the needle enough for the Pelicans within a narrow time frame to offset both his cost over the length of his next contract and the inevitable sharp decline which may already be rearing it’s ugly head.
The 2016-17 season has nearly reached it’s halfway point so we’re well past all small sample size arguments. That’s bad news for Paul Millsap because it means a number of key statistics that are noticeable trending downwards must be factored into any interested team’s equation.
Despite lacking elite athleticism, Millsap has always looked for his shot around the rim, having never attempted less than 1⁄3 of his shots from this area. This season it’s down to 28.2%, representing a decline of over 15% from his previous low attempt rate in the 0-3 feet radius.
Plus, not only are his attempts down, the explosive finishes have significantly dwindled. Did you know that Buddy Hield trails Millsap by just one made dunk on the season?
Has he lost a step? Did a preseason nonsurgical knee procedure signal the wear and tear is real and at a stage that will require additional management for the rest of his career? Who knows, but I will say he didn’t seem as explosive in Thursday’s game as I remembered him being in the past. For instance, take a look at this shot attempt.
Now have a look at this dunk over John Henson from just one year ago.
In both clips Millsap leaves the ground from identical parts on the floor, but winds up with two vastly different results. On the dunk, he also displayed an additional gear but there was no change of pace on the missed lay-in.
Shots around the rim are not the only concerning indicators. Millsap’s offensive rebounding percentage (OREB%), 2-point percentage (2p%) true shooting percentage (TS%) are headed for new career lows. Conversely, his 3-point attempts are pointing towards a new high, but for a second straight season, the shooting percentage from beyond the arc is rather disappointing. So, what’s up with his longest average shooting distance of 11.6 feet? If the shot from the perimeter isn’t dropping like in years past, why has he decidedly moved further away from the rim?
Setting aside this campaign’s statistics for a moment, the number of played seasons are fast becoming a factor. Millsap is likely going to seek at least a 4-year deal with his next team. Considering he’s averaged right around 2500 minutes in Atlanta (not counting postseasons), a new franchise would hope he’d be available for at least 10,000 productive minutes. Next year will mark Millsaps 12th in the league, and although he’ll only be 32, the list of forwards who have played an additional 10,000 minutes beyond their 12th year is limited to 16 names since the start of the shot clock era.
In addition, were Millsap to be one of the few to exceed the apparently difficult quota, his odds that his play wouldn’t decline to below average standards are not good. According to Stumbling on Wins, franchises should be careful signing players past the age of 30 to longterm contracts because a steep decline starts to hit around age 32.
So, as David mentioned a few days ago, despite the fact that Millsap would likely become the best player Anthony Davis has played alongside, it wouldn’t behoove the Pelicans to hand him a 4 or 5-year contract starting at around $35 million next season. New Orleans timeline simply isn’t ready to assume the risk, and if the front office wants to part with valuable future assets, there are more pressing needs that should be addressed first within the rotation.