When Chris Haynes reported the Hawks and Suns had spoken about a potential Millsap trade for a draft pick package, it made sense financially, at the time, to make room for Al Horford and Dwight Howard. Even after Horford signed with Boston later that day, a trade involving Millsap still could make sense. Now, before Hawks fans lose their collective minds about shipping out the other half of their All-Star frontcourt tandem, let’s review the NBA landscape.
At the top of the Eastern Conference, Cleveland and Toronto essentially have the same lineups as last year. Boston will be improved after swapping Jared Sullinger out for Al Horford. Milwaukee looms as a young and super talented collection of octopus-like length. Let’s not forget the Western Conference where Golden State went from a “Big 3” to assembling the basketball equivalent of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse after signing Kevin Durant.
With significant obstacles in the way of a championship, the Hawks should look into receiving assets for Paul Millsap while they still can. Assuming Millsap opts out of his contract at the end of this season, the Hawks will have to use cap space to offer a 4-year max deal as the cap increases again from $94 million to $102 million. Such a deal would keep Millsap in Atlanta until age 36, surely past his prime.
Let me be perfectly clear: Atlanta is not likely to trade Millsap. However, the trade possibilities involving Millsap are intriguing, to say the least.
So what kind of value could Millsap retrieve? A Paul Millsap-Blake Griffin swap is not realistic. Still, one of the best power forwards in the league can net serious value in return. Since Millsap is not likely to play out the last year on his deal, he must be looked at as an All-Star on an expiring deal. The most realistic trade partners are teams that have young assets on affordable contracts and/or draft picks. Three teams that instantly come to mind are the Lakers, the Celtics, and the Suns.
The Lakers could pair one of their young core (not named Brandon Ingram) and a future first round pick for Millsap. Getting a young big in Julius Randle or a young scorer in D’Angelo Russell would certainly help the Hawks long term.
The Suns have a treasure chest of young talent and most likely a lottery pick in next year’s draft. My head starts to spin thinking about the young assets Phoenix could offer. T.J. Warren is an intriguing scorer as a combo forward. Archie Goodwin is an undervalued and athletic combo guard. Both of the Suns’ 2016 lottery picks (Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss) would fit well with Bud’s uptempo system.
Finally, The Celtics seem to be involved in almost every trade rumor with a star, so why not add Millsap to the mix? Boston is a team that could offer young talent, affordable rotation players, and/or draft picks. Do the Hawks want perimeter defense? The Celtics can offer elite defenders in Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart. Do the Hawks want a young forward with massive upside? The Celtics have 19-year-old Marietta native Jaylen Brown waiting to be molded into a star. Do the Hawks want some draft picks? The Celtics still have plenty of high first round picks coming through the pipeline thanks to that Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trade with the Nets in 2013.
Atlanta loves Paul Millsap, and rightfully so. Paul Millsap has been a vital piece to the Bud’s system. But, there is a real chance Millsap departs after next season. No matter how you spin it, the Hawks are looking at a tough choice coming in the next 12 months.