Paul Millsap is now the most sought-after free agent on the market, and on Friday he decided to sign an offer sheet to play for the Portland Trail Blazers. Since he is a restricted free agent, his current team has the option to match any offer he receives.
The contract to be matched is reported to be a four-year, $32-36 million deal (including $10.3 million up front). Utah will be granted seven days to decide his fate.
The Jazz already have a great player at the same position as Millsap in Carlos Boozer. Boozer made $12.5 million this year, and decided to play the optional final year of his contract.
Starting center Mehmet Okur recently signed a $21 million deal over two years, and with Andrei Kirilenko ($16.5 mil) and Deron Williams ($13.5 mil) both putting a big dent in the Jazz’s salary cap, re-signing Millsap would put them in a tough position.
The total team salary for next year would add up to $81 million, well over the league’s luxury tax and would put them behind only the Los Angeles Lakers in team payroll.
Millsap was a key contributor to the Jazz this past season. With averages of 13.5 PPG and 8.6 RPG in 30 minutes of action, Millsap established himself as one of the league’s premier rebounders and was able to score in double digits for the first time in his career.
He has improved significantly each year in the NBA, and 24 years of age he’s still got time to grow. Playing behind Carlos Boozer in Utah would keep him from reaching his full potential, but you could say the same for him in Portland.
The Trail Blazers have had a rough summer. GM Kevin Pritchard hasn’t been very successful this offseason, missing out on Hedo Turkoglu in free agency and failing to acquire Kirk Hinrich in a three-team trade with the Bulls and Jazz. Now they’re having problems signing team leader Brandon Roy to an extension.
Some believe he is desperate at this point, as evidenced by shelling out big bucks to what would be a backup power forward on this team. Point guard and small forward are considered the bigger needs, so why is he overpaying a guy that won’t even start? He can’t play multiple positions, so a Lamar Odom-like role isn’t possible with him.
There is no doubt he would give them a big boost off the bench. LaMarcus Aldridge is considered more of a finesse big man that prefers to shoot jumpers than play in the post, so Millsap would be a good complement.
He would be a leading candidate for sixth man of the year, and if Greg Oden goes down he would be great assurance as a replacement starter. But if you’re going to give a guy big bucks, he better play a key role on your team, not just be a 25-30 MPG backup.
Financially, this will hurt the Blazers’ in their attempts at locking up their young talent for years to come. If it risks losing Roy, Aldridge, or Oden, then signing Millsap is not worth the benefits.
Not to mention guys like Nicolas Batum, Rudy Fernandez, and whoever they decide to play at point guard. Both of those positions are in more need of an upgrade than power forward, and a good rebounder like Leon Powe could be had for much less cash.
Both teams will be in a bad position financially if they sign Millsap, and both currently have a better power forward that would play over him.
In Utah, they could at least move Boozer, and considering his contract expires at the end of the season, it’s very doable. He would get an opportunity for more playing time with them, and his rugged style is a good fit next to a shooting big man like Okur.
In Portland, he would without a doubt be a backup, because McMillan wouldn’t dare bench Greg Oden. Utah is clearly the better fit for Millsap, and if they would have given him an offer earlier they wouldn’t be in this situation now.
Jazz or Blazers: Who will get him?
We’ve got at most a week to see how things play out. Either way, Millsap is going to be a great signing for the team that signs him. In Utah, he would be a young piece to keep around Deron Williams, and is capable of filling much of Carlos Boozer’s shoes should he be traded.
Though the Trail Blazers have more pressing needs, their frontcourt could become dominant in the future should they retain their star players. Steve Blake isn’t a great starter at point, but he has high basketball IQ and can hit open jump shots. Jerryd Bayless and Petteri Koponen could also compete for the job in the future.
Nic Batum, Travis Outlaw, and Martell Webster is solid at small forward. It’s not the best move, but they still get a very good player nonetheless.
This has been an interesting offseason, and the Millsap deal reflects what’s been the trend as a whole. Lots of confusion, hurt feelings, and drama. Will Utah match Portland's substantial offer, or will they play the money game and let him walk?
Only time will tell.
Article Credit due to The Big Three at RealSportsTalk.