It isn't often that an NBA player plays the best basketball of his career in his tenth season, but that is exactly what Paul Millsap did during the 2015-2016 campaign.
Though Millsap has been a highly productive player for the duration of his stellar career, the now 31-year-old power forward took things to a new level this season. Given that Millsap was already a two-time All-Star prior to the start of the season, that is high praise, but in virtually every way, the veteran ascended from his already lofty position.
The defensive end was especially kind to Millsap in 2015-2016, to the point where he quite obviously earned his place on the NBA's All-Defensive second team. Millsap was the lone NBA player to exceed both 1.7 steals and 1.7 blocks per game this season (an accomplishment in itself) and that helped him to lead the NBA (!) in defensive win shares as compiled by Basketball-Reference.
While the numbers are (very) nice, Millsap's defensive versatility was also extremely vital in helping the Hawks to the second-best defense in the league during the regular season. He boasts some of the best hands in the NBA, regularly generating deflections and snaring unlikely rebounds, and Millsap's mobility and positioning allow Mike Budenholzer to deploy varied efforts around him while never worrying about the man that Millsap is assigned to on a play-by-play basis.
Offensively, it was yet another strong campaign as well. Though it must be noted that Millsap's three-point shooting regressed to 31.9% on 2.8 attempts per game (down from 35.6% the previous season), he posted a career-best in assists (3.3 per game) while scoring 17.1 points per game on a very solid 55.6% true shooting. That combination allowed Millsap to post a 21.3 PER for the season, and when he was clicking (highlighted by a 45-point outburst in Boston), his offensive game was a sight to behold.
At this juncture, Paul Millsap is almost universally recognized as Atlanta's most valuable player, and that is a significant distinction given the presence of Al Horford. The workload assigned to Millsap on both ends is significant, but the three-time reigning All-Star was up to the challenge and then some, to the point where he fell just shy of an All-NBA nod, finishing seventh in the league among forwards.
Moving forward, Millsap is under contract for the 2016-2017 season at just north of $20 million, and he holds a player option (at nearly $21.5 million) for the 2017-2018. Of all the assets on the Atlanta Hawks roster, Paul Millsap is arguably the least likely to move in the coming days, and while both the player and team could face an interesting decision after next season, it seems highly improbable that he would be anywhere but Atlanta during the upcoming 2016-2017 campaign.
Paul Millsap may never duplicate the overall brilliance that he put forth during the most recent NBA season, but he is one of the 20 best players in the league at this juncture and the Hawks are lucky to have him on board for the near future.