The Utah Jazz frontcourt is as crowded as Energy Solutions Arena is empty as this team watches the playoffs from their couches.
As a crucial offseason gets underway for Utah, the Jazz are left with a boatload of cap space and a long list of pressing decisions on their plate. This offseason will dictate the trajectory of their future more than past ones. More than any team in the league, Utah can ill-afford to make bad decisions in the coming months.
With so many big pieces in line for new contracts and so much money to play with, the Jazz have a multitude of options. One of the issues, if not the biggest, they must address is Paul Millsap's value to this franchise.
To assess his true value, let's go over a little history, shall we?
Utah has made the playoffs in five of Millsap's seven seasons with the team. During his first two seasons, he played a vital role off the bench on the team led by superstar point guard Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer. They even made it to the conference finals in his rookie season.
As the roster started dwindling and Millsap improved, he eventually worked his way into the starting lineup and became a bona fide star over these last few seasons. Now arguably their best player, where exactly has it gotten them?
Utah has missed the playoffs in two of the last three seasons with Millsap and Al Jefferson running the show. The only year the Jazz made it was last year when they were quickly disposed of in four games by the San Antonio Spurs. Millsap shot 37 percent in the series.
What this likely means is that Millsap is a very good second or third option on a team. He is a very talented, multi-faceted player, but in a league consistently getting smaller and faster, he is in no way capable of being a go-to option. This is not rocket science. Most fans know this already, and the front office needs to realize it going forward.
That being said, Millsap is heading into free agency as the best power forward not named Josh Smith. He is in line for a hefty payday, and it would be wise for Utah to spend its money elsewhere since the Jazz have already been down that road. Millsap has had ample time to get this team somewhere, and it just hasn't happened.
According to Deseret News, Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey was hesitant speaking about the future of his two star big men.
"They're going to have a ton of options because there's a lot of money on the market," he said.
As far as putting a number on it, Millsap is going to fall a little short of a max deal. A four-year deal around $50 million should be in the ballpark of what his offer will be. For reference, Gerald Wallace signed a four-year, $40 million dollar offer with Brooklyn last offseason. Ersan Ilyasova got a five-year, $45 million deal with Milwaukee last offseason as well. Both players have similar value and skill sets to Millsap.
For one, Millsap is better off going to a borderline contender and making them much more legitimate. Teams like Dallas, Houston or Indiana have money to spend and could really use a dynamic forward like Millsap to make that leap up to the top of the standings.
From a financial perspective, Utah has just roughly $25 million committed to next season's roster with eight free agents possibly leaving Salt Lake City. Committing that much money to a player who has failed to win a playoff game in his three years as a starter would be irresponsible. That money could be allocated elsewhere.
The biggest reason why Millsap re-signing a huge, lucrative deal with Utah would be a mistake is he is blocking two young studs on the front line. Former No. 3 overall picks Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors are more than ready to step in and be forces in this league after learning under Millsap and Jefferson's tutelage for a couple of seasons.
If Millsap were to be brought back as a jack-of-all-trades sixth man, then he would have supreme value to this franchise. At the price he is likely to command, his value to this team has dwindled with the presence of two incredibly talented big men on the roster waiting in the wings. That being said, he will cost less than Jefferson will, and if Utah is adamant about bringing at least one of them back, by all means it should be Millsap.
Millsap did not have his best season heading into his contract year. His scoring decreased for the third straight season, and his field-goal percentage declined for the fourth consecutive season. For a 28-year-old who should be entering his prime, those numbers are slightly disconcerting.
Maybe, just maybe that will knock his price tag down enough for Utah to retain him.
Millsap has been a fan favorite in Utah during his tenure. He has the blue-collar work ethic that coaches love and teammates feed off of, but Favors forced coach Ty Corbin's hand this season and truly showed that he needs big minutes. His minutes ate into Millsap's more than they had in previous seasons and likely had an effect on Millsap's play.
Without a doubt, this team is better with Millsap on it, but at what cost? For $50 million, Utah is much better off going to battle with Kanter and Favors. The Jazz can spend that money on big free-agent shooting guards such as O.J. Mayo, Kevin Martin or Tyreke Evans.
If the price is right, Millsap is more likely to return to Utah than Jefferson is. He has proven in the past that he can fill a crucial role on a winning team, but when asked to do too much, he simply is not capable of getting Utah over the hump.
There is no question that Millsap has had some HUGE performances that will stick with Jazz fans for years to come. Whether or not he has the opportunity to continue doing so is something we will all be waiting patiently to find out.
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