When the Atlanta Hawks signed Paul Millsap last offseason it was met with tempered reaction by most. Many had their sights set on Dwight Howard or Chris Paul and Danny Ferry delivered Millsap. It wasn't exactly the trade off a lot of fans were looking for. What the Hawks got though was a quiet, lead by example type of player that brought his hard hat each and every night.
Millsap's deal did draw rave reviews from pundits around the league, 2-years, $19 million for a player of Millsap's talent seemed rather cheap and with little risk. Especially when you consider the massive 4-year, $54 million that Josh Smith got from Detroit.
Millsap averaged 17.9 points and 8.5 rebounds over the course of the season. He knocked down 46 percent of his field goal attempts and 73 percent of his free throw attempts. Anyone that has followed the Hawks over the last couple of seasons knows that Millsap brought a new level of offensive efficiency to Atlanta's power forward position.
As was the case with DeMarre Carroll, Millsap expanded his game in Atlanta under Mike Budenholzer. No longer pigeon holed as a traditional power forward, Millsap added the three-point shot to his arsenal with the Hawks. In seven seasons with the Utah Jazz, Millsap attempted a combined 113 attempts. He launched 212 this season in Budenholzer's spread attack. For the season, Millsap ended up making 36 percent of his three-point attempts.
The advanced numbers also showed favorably on Millsap who finished with the highest PER of anyone on the team not named Al Horford at 19.8 per Basketball-Reference. He somewhat surprisingly led the team in defensive win shares at 4.0 and overall win shares at 6.7.
In replacing Smith with Millsap, many understood they would get a more efficient option on the offensive end of the floor. If there was a concern it was at the defensive end of the floor. Millsap proved to not be as flashy as Smith on the defensive end but recorded 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks per game during the 2014 season.
Once Al Horford was lost for the season, Millsap picked up his game and became the on the floor leader. He was a big part in Atlanta remaining in the playoff hunt through what was a disastrous and injury riddled second half of the season. He raised his game in the playoffs averaging a double-double against the Pacers as the Hawks' upset bid fell just short.
Millsap will be entering the final year of his contract and his solid 2014 season has raised his value. The Houston Rockets were among the teams that were reportedly interested at the trade deadline and their figures to be several more suitors this time around. The Hawks weren't interested in listening to offers for Millsap at the deadline but will that change this summer?It's possible but it would take a substantial offer it appears for a team to acquire Millsap from the Hawks. Rather than give up a large package, teams may opt to just wait a season and pursue him in free agency.
Millsap's 2014 season was refreshing because it's not often that you see a seven-year veteran go to a new team and expand their game. In many ways he is a perfect example of what the Hawks are selling in regards to their player development model. They aren't just centered on making their young players better but are focused on improving their entire roster. For that, Millsap is a shining example.