Paul Millsap will likely hit free agency in exactly two months, as the All-Star power forward expressed during exit interviews on Saturday that he will "probably" opt out of his player option for 2017-2018. That is, of course, a very obvious decision for anyone that has been paying attention to the Atlanta Hawks this season but a five-man panel on ESPN.com broke down Millsap’s decision over the weekend with choices as to the "most likely outcome" this summer.
In the end, four of the five panelists chose the option of Millsap opting out and... signing with a different NBA team. The outlier, Jeremias Engelmann, indicated that he sees Millsap and the Hawks reaching a pact "on a price slightly below the max." Still, the big takeaway was the pessimism with regard to Atlanta’s situation in trying to keep him and Kevin Arnovitz framed things this way:
Millsap has a firm appreciation for the growth he has enjoyed as a player in Atlanta in Mike Budenholzer's system. He also knows that he can replicate that with any number of teams that will happily extend him a max deal.
The Hawks could've dealt Millsap at a number of points over the past couple of seasons for a considerable return, and might regret not doing so before it's all over.
Tom Haberstroh indicated that it "seems like this Hawks' run has faded," while Kevin Pelton painted a picture similar to that of Al Horford’s choice. That would involve Millsap taking slightly less money for a situation that he deemed to be brighter with regard to success in the future and it isn’t the craziest thought.
Paul Millsap has said all of the right things and, if provided with a full five-year maximum contract, it seems likely that he would stick around long-term. Still, the Hawks drew a line in the sand with Horford and Millsap is, of course, two years older at the time of free agency with a (much) larger possible contract on the table given the rising nature of the salary cap.
What we know at this point is that the Atlanta Hawks absolutely need Paul Millsap back to be the best team they can be in 2017-2018. Still, Millsap is fully within his rights to walk away at any point once July arrives and, to make things murkier, the Hawks could decide that investing the type of money necessary to keep him would be perilous. Stay tuned.