Over the course of his career with the Utah Jazz, Paul Millsap worked his way up from second-round afterthought to vital member of the starting lineup. There will be no such mountain to climb in the 28-year-old forward's next home with the Atlanta Hawks.
UPDATE: Wednesday, July 10, at 11:30 a.m. ET by Brandon Galvin
The Atlanta Hawks introduced Paul Millsap as the team's newest member this morning:
Danny Ferry on Paul Millsap: There are ups and downs in a season, but you're better off facing them with a guy like Paul.— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) July 10, 2013
More Danny: We've been eyeballing Paul all year. He embodies the identity we want to have going forward.— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) July 10, 2013
Millsap: I feel like I can fit it anywhere, and coming to Atlanta just felt right.— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) July 10, 2013
Millsap: I'm looking forward to starting something special in Atlanta. #yousaidit— Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) July 10, 2013
---End of update---
Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Chris Vivlamore originally reported Millsap and the Atlanta Hawks have agreed to a deal that will bring him back to his native South.
Hawks have agreed to deal with Paul Milsap. #ATLHawks— Chris Vivlamore (@ajchawks) July 6, 2013
Ken Berger of CBS Sports has details on the deal.
Paul Millsap has agreed to a two-year, $19 million deal with the Atlanta Hawks, league source says.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) July 6, 2013
The Jazz had previously renounced Millsap's rights as part of their trade earlier in the day with the Golden State Warriors. Utah acquired two first-round picks from Golden State in exchange for taking back the expiring contracts of Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson.
One of the perpetually underrated big men in the league, Millsap again had a very solid 2012-13 season. He averaged 14.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game while shooting 49 percent from the floor.
With his contract expiring at the end of the season, Millsap's 2012-13 journey was one of the more interesting ones of his career. The Jazz have two exciting young big men in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Fellow big man Al Jefferson's contract was also expiring, so numerous trade rumors surrounded the team as the deadline approached.
With the team playing well and on the precipice of a playoff run, Utah chose to stand pat. The Jazz ultimately missed the playoffs thanks to a late-season run by the Los Angeles Lakers, leaving many to question the decision not to deal.
Their conservativeness looks curious at best considering the aftermath of the situation. Utah lost two valuable assets without recouping any of their value at the deadline via draft picks or potential young players to work around their two emerging big men.
While Millsap doesn't receive much national recognition, Atlanta has acquired one of the league's quality offensive forwards. There's no one who would mistake Millsap with a first or even second option on a contender, but he should fit in just fine with Atlanta.
One of the biggest calling cards in Millsap's game is his ability to hit the mid-range jumper. The veteran forward knocked down 42.4 percent of his shots from 16-24 feet during the regular season, an elite percentage for what is generally considered the least efficient shot in basketball. Millsap's ability to shoot those jumpers played a vital role in Utah's spacing, creating room for three-point shooters and allowing Al Jefferson to bang down low.
In today's NBA, players like Millsap are becoming invaluable. Finding a usable two-way forward, outside of a select five to 10 players, is almost like trying to find a triceratops roaming through Manhattan. And as the Miami Heat proved for the second straight season, it's possible to win without a traditional center—so long as the requisite effort is in place.
The Hawks won't be looking for Millsap to take over a Chris Bosh-like role—he's too small and not a good enough defender—but the spacing he provides should prove to be a welcome addition.
At the very least, the Hawks found a player who can stay healthy, provide help offensively and won't leave them bereft on defense. Considering how often we see big men get overpaid in this league, Millsap's deal should be mutually beneficial.
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