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NBA AM: Don’t Overlook Millsap to Hawks
Posted By Alex Kennedy On September 19, 2013 @ 9:33 am In NBA | No Comments
Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry discusses the team's offseason additions, contract negotiations with Jeff Teague and much more.Watch More Video Here
One of the most overlooked acquisitions of the 2013 offseason was the Atlanta Hawks’ signing of power forward Paul Millsap. Perhaps it’s because he agreed to terms with Atlanta on the same evening that Dwight Howard announced his free agency decision. Perhaps it’s because Millsap has always been a player who has flown under the radar and gone unappreciated due to his style of play.
Regardless of why the addition was unheralded, the Hawks’ acquisition of Millsap was one of the better moves of the summer, especially when you consider that they landed him on a two-year deal worth $19 million. Entering the offseason, Millsap was widely regarded as a marquee free agent – a nice consolation prize for a team that swung and missed on a superstar like Dwight Howard or Chris Paul.
That’s how Atlanta landed him, coming up short in their effort to sign both Howard and Paul to maximum contracts, and turning to Millsap.
However, Atlanta courted Millsap from the moment the free agency period opened. At 12:01 a.m. on July 1, Hawks general manager Danny Ferry called Millsap and expressed his interest in the power forward. If Ferry’s master plan of signing Howard and Paul fell through, he sure as hell wasn’t going to miss out on Millsap too, who he had long coveted.
Millsap was honored to get that call from Ferry and felt that the Hawks would be a perfect fit for him.
“It feels good [to be a team’s top priority], especially to know that you’re wanted by somebody, and they feel like I can come help their team out a lot,” Millsap said earlier this offseason. “I feel like I can help, and I can’t wait to get it going. I’m very excited. I’m going to be surrounded by a bunch of very good basketball players, guys who know how to play the game. That does nothing but help you out in the long run. I’m excited to play for them and I’m excited to get this thing going.”
Paying Millsap $9,500,000 per season over the next two years is a bargain for Atlanta, especially when you look at some of the other contracts handed out to big men this summer. Al Jefferson will make $41 million over the next three years with the Charlotte Bobcats. Andrew Bynum can make as much as $24.79 million over the next two years with the Cleveland Cavaliers if he stays healthy. Even Zaza Pachulia got in on the action, inking a three-year deal worth $16 million with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Millsap will replace Josh Smith, who left Atlanta via free agency to join the Detroit Pistons, and one could make the argument that Millsap is actually an upgrade over the polarizing Smith. Millsap won’t make as many highlight-reel plays, but he also won’t make as many poor decisions. Of the two players, Millsap also has the higher basketball IQ, the more efficient game and the drive to hustle on every single play. These qualities are what attracted Ferry to Millsap earlier this summer.
“[We loved] Paul’s values and how he plays,” Ferry said. “For one, he really knows how to play. He’s a smart player, he’s a good passer, he’s unselfish. He plays hard every play and every game. That’s an identity that we obviously want to have with our team, in practice and in games. Having him do that every day, and having our young guys see that as an example every day, it’s a great thing.”
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer is also a big fan of Millsap and what he brings to a team. The 28-year-old is basically a coach’s best friend with his strong leadership, intense work ethic and contagious tenacity.
“Paul, he is just a great competitor,” Budenholzer said in July. “Most importantly, we feel like he’s a guy that is going to come out and play hard every night and bring it every night. And he has a very high basketball IQ. The way we play defensively, he’s going to be excellent here, and then offensively, going through the elbows and using him as a passer and just taking advantage of his high basketball IQ.”
Last season, Millsap averaged 14.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists as well as a block and a steal in 78 games with Utah. However, expect Millsap’s production to increase in Atlanta. His minutes had dipped in each of the last two seasons as the Jazz were trying to find playing time for their youngsters Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. With the Hawks, Millsap may be able to duplicate the success that he had during his 2010-11 career-year, when he averaged 17.3 points and 7.6 rebounds.
One thing is certain: Millsap will be efficient when he’s on the floor. Over the last three seasons, his efficiency rating has been 19.8 or higher. In the 2011-12 season, Millsap posted an impressive 21.85 PER, which was ranked the 19th best rating in the league.
However, Millsap isn’t the kind of player who cares about statistics. He’s just focused on wins and losses. He has earned a reputation for being a selfless player who puts his team before everything else, and that’s exactly why he should be great for the culture in Atlanta. When told that the Hawks have made the playoffs in six consecutive years, Millsap interrupts to say that he wants to continue that streak.
“We definitely want to make it seven; that’s the first goal at hand,” Millsap said. “We’re trying to make the playoffs. But that’s a long ways away, and we know we got some work to do. We’re going to come in and do the best we can and try to meet our expectations.”
Millsap will be reuniting with former Jazz teammates Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll in Atlanta, which should make his transition to the new team easier. While Korver and Carroll know what Millsap brings to a team, the forward’s new teammates are excited to see what he can do firsthand.
“I saw him last year when we played against him and he’s just a great player,” John Jenkins said of Millsap. “A great player. I’m really excited to be on his team.”
The Hawks will have a tough time joining the Eastern Conference’s top-tier, which is expected to consist of the Miami HEAT, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks. However, that’s exactly what everyone said last year and they found themselves just one game outside of the fifth seed at the end of the season.
With Millsap, the Hawks may be much-improved in the upcoming season and exceed expectations. However, like Millsap, they’ll probably fly under the radar and not get the recognition they deserve in the process.
Warriors Hire Hunter as Assistant Coach
After serving as the interim head coach of the Phoenix Suns last season, Lindsey Hunter has found his next coaching job. The 17-year NBA veteran will join Mark Jackson’s coaching staff on the Golden State Warriors, serving as an assistant coach.
During his short stint as the head coach of the Suns, Hunter compiled a 12-29 record. The situation that he inherited wasn’t a pretty one, so the poor record isn’t entirely on Hunter and his coaching abilities.
Prior to becoming the head coach in Phoenix, Hunter served as the Suns’ player development coordinator, having originally joined the team’s scouting department in 2012. Before that, Hunter worked as a player development assistant for the Chicago Bulls.
In Golden State, Hunter will join fellow assistants Pete Myers, Darren Erman, Brian Scalabrine, Jerry DeGregorio and Joe Boylan on Jackson’s staff.
While Hunter is hoping to soon become known for his head coaching career, he’s still primarily known for his playing career.
Before retiring from the NBA in 2010 after 17 seasons, Hunter appeared in 937 regular-season games with the Detroit Pistons (1993-00, 2003-08), Milwaukee Bucks (2000-01), Los Angeles Lakers (2001-02), Toronto Raptors (2002-03) and Chicago Bulls (2008-10).
The veteran guard advanced to the playoffs 12 times, playing in 147 postseason contests and winning NBA titles with the Lakers (2002) and Pistons (2004).
Originally selected by the Pistons with the 10th overall pick in the 1993 NBA Draft, the Jackson State University alum averaged 8.5 points, 2.7 assists and 2.2 rebounds in 24.8 minutes per game during his NBA career.
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