Paul Millsap was one of four players on the Utah Jazz to be placed on the 2012 NBA All-Star ballot. He was not selected as a starter for the Western Conference, arguably due to the lack of fans voting for him to represent their team given the small Salt Lake market.
Jazz fans should be thankful.
There is no doubt that Millsap is a great player, and it is safe to say he is one of the best forwards in the entire league.
Among all forwards in the NBA, he currently ranks sixth in rebounds per game (9.5), 16th in scoring (16.8 per game), fifth in steals (1.55 per game) and 18th in field-goal percentage (52.6 percent).
One category that exemplifies Millsap’s contributions while on the floor is his Hollinger player efficiency rating (PER), which is a calculation of a player’s per-minute productivity.
Millsaps’ PER is 25.17, putting him at seventh overall in the NBA. He ranks ahead of All-Star starters Dwight Howard (24.5), Dwayne Wade (23.83), Blake Griffin (22.79), Andrew Bynum (22.23) and Carmelo Anthony (20.42).
Millsap already has nine double-doubles this season, tying him with fellow All-Star ballotee Al Jefferson for ninth in the NBA, the last of which came during a 96-87 win against the Los Angeles Lakers when he scored 16 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
His success this season should not surprise anyone given his trajectory since being selected 47th overall in the 2006 NBA draft out of Louisiana Tech, the same school Jazz Hall of Famer Karl Malone hailed from.
Of the various statistics describing players’ abilities and drive during their college careers, few speak louder than rebounding.
Millsap led the NCAA in rebounding not once or twice, but in three consecutive seasons (2004-2006), the only player to have ever done that. “Ever” when referring to collegiate records speaks volumes. (Note: He skipped his senior season to enter the NBA and could have potentially claimed the title four years in a row. Amazing)
That feat alone should have opened more eyes during the NBA draft, but as a Jazz fan, I am grateful his efforts were overlooked. He is now honing that work ethic to improve each year in the NBA.
Since he was selected as a 2007 NBA All-Rookie Team honoree, Millsap has continually developed his game. He continues to push his shooting prowess further from the basket, keeps rebounding like Barkley (that is, beyond his size should allow him) and has been able to consistently help the Jazz while on the floor.
Though his per game scoring is down a touch from his most productive season in the league last year (16.8 compared to 17.3), it is mostly due to a decrease in minutes (three less per game this season). His rebounding, a pillar that helped him get into the NBA, has increased from 7.7 per game to 9.5 despite the drop in minutes.
If Millsap were in a bigger market the media would be salivating over what he is capable of, and he would arguably be a starter in Orlando come February 26.
He has a barrel full of post moves, he uses his quick hands to grab boards and steals, and if given an open look from 10-18 feet buries those shots like they are layups.
He remains calm and collected on the floor, and is generally affable when talking to the media. Those traits hurt him in terms of getting recognized nationally, but they help him continue to fly under the radar while he helps lead the Jazz each season.
Though Millsap does not get the recognition that he deserves, there is no doubt he is a hard worker and a highly productive player. At only $6.7 million this year and $7.2 million next his salary is a steal, and at only 26 years he has a promising future for years to come.
One can only hope the Jazz management team keeps Millsap around for the duration of his career, and that he continues to remain healthy and effective.