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Should Hawks fans be worried about Paul Millsap?

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Paul Millsap will sit out three weeks after a knee procedure. Is this a bump in the road or a sign of things to come?

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Washington Wizards Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today, the news broke that Paul Millsap recently underwent a procedure on his knee and will sit out the next three weeks. This will take Millsap completely out of training camp and (at least) the first two preseason games.

When any team’s best player goes through a medical procedure, fans are right to be worried. Given Millsap’s age (31), any injury for the Hawks’ star is even more concerning. So should Hawks fans be worried about Paul Millsap’s knee procedure? The only answer for now is “Yes, but not too much.”

Although Millsap finished 15th in Sports Illustrated’s top 100 players, he is often severely underrated by commentators and casual fans. His value to this team is clear to both players and fans though, and losing him for any length of time would affect Atlanta just like losing Kyle Lowry or Draymond Green would affect Toronto or Golden State.

To be fair, the Los Angeles Clippers survived losing a star power forward last year, but the Hawks don’t have the talent to withstand that kind of injury. Millsap is an elite defender and a high-level scorer, and nobody else on Atlanta’s roster fits that profile. He’s the best player on the team, and (despite the Dwight Howard hype), it isn’t close.

Most predictions about the Hawks have them finishing either in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture or somewhere near the 7-8 seed (a few see Atlanta missing the playoffs altogether). Without Millsap, the Hawks are fringe playoff contender at best and probably worse than that. This projection goes beyond Millsap’s pure talent, too: the main backups (Mike Scott and Kris Humphries) don’t look fully ready to handle big-time minutes.

These are all the reasons to worry. But in truth, to raise the panic flag would be an overreaction at this point. There’s no reason to doubt that Millsap should recover from this procedure, especially since it wasn’t surgical. If the Hawks’ leadership were truly worried about Millsap prior to this point, there probably would have been corresponding roster moves to add another forward.

Millsap is 31, which typically doesn’t suggest a great injury outlook. He also played 81 games last year, which both suggests that he is still durable and that he recently carried a huge workload.

Ultimately, though, there just isn’t enough information to know what to expect. Millsap is certainly skilled enough that missing training camp won’t have a huge impact on his game, but any more missed preseason games would be even more concerning that what we already know.

Millsap’s procedure is undeniably worrying; the stakes are too high for it not to be. If any complications arise, Atlanta’s season will be in serious jeopardy. For now, all fans can do is wait, and hope that this is the last we hear about Paul Millsap’s knee.