NBA AM: Millsap Better for Hawks Than Smith
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HOOPSWORLD talks to Atlanta Hawks' Paul Millsap at the 2013 NBA Summer League.Watch More Video Here
Paul Millsap Looking to Make Hawks More Efficient
So the Atlanta Hawks didn’t end up with Dwight Howard or Chris Paul this summer, even though they famously told prospective ticket buyers that they had every intention of landing one or both of them, and while that would’ve ushered in a potentially new championship era of basketball for a team that hasn’t even made the Finals since 1961, the fact is that Danny Ferry struck out on both of the league’s top free agents this summer.
That could have been the end of it, and Atlanta could have just settled for signing Monta Ellis or Brandon Jennings or some other former Milwaukee Buck that would’ve done nothing for the betterment of the franchise. However, that’s not what happened, as the Hawks ended up with one of the better bargains of free agency in snagging Paul Millsap on a two-year, $19 million contract.
His addition softens the blow of losing not only Paul and Howard, but also Josh Smith, who left for the Detroit Pistons. Millsap, for his part, is very excited to have been one of Atlanta’s top priorities, and even more excited about playing for a new team this upcoming season.
“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 while starting his adjustment to a new team by spending some time with the Hawks’ summer league team in Las Vegas. “I feel like I can, and I can’t wait to get it going.”
He’ll be joined by All-Star center Al Horford in the Atlanta frontcourt, as well as a healthy Lou Williams and the recently re-signed Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver to round out the projected starting lineup. It’s a slightly improved version of the team that made the playoffs last year, and Millsap believes he and his new team can repeat last season’s success.
“That’s the first goal at hand: try to make the playoffs,” Millsap said. “But it’s a long ways away, and we know we got some work to do. So we’re going to come in and do the best we can and try to meet our expectations.
“I’m going to be surrounded by a bunch of basketball players, guys who know how to play the game. That does nothing but help you out in the long run so I’m excited to play for them and I’m excited to get this thing going.”
New head coach Mike Budenhozler, a long-time Gregg Popovich disciple in San Antonio and perhaps Atlanta’s best free agent acquisition of the offseason, also appears very excited to add Millsap to the fold.
“Paul, he is just a great competitor,” Budenholzer said while watching a Hawks’ summer league game in Vegas. “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 then he has a very high basketball IQ. The way we play defensively, he’s going to be excellent there, and then offensively, going through the elbows and using him as a passer and just taking advantage of his high basketball IQ.”
Replacing a talented defender like Smith isn’t going to be easy, but Millsap is also a solid defender with a much more efficient offensive game (Smith shot 46.5 percent from the floor last year with a 17.8 efficiency rating, while Millsap shot 51.6 percent with a 19.9 efficiency rating). Hawks fans may miss Smith’s jaw-dropping blocks and dunks, but they won’t miss the threes he jacked up at the worst possible moments. Millsap is a more traditional power forward that will leave the outside shooting to the outside shooters, and he’ll help the Hawks play a much more efficient game.
That, at least, is the idea. However things end up statistically, by bringing in Millsap and holding onto Korver and Teague, the Hawks salvaged a respectable free agency period. Now all they’ve got to do is get those players to develop chemistry quickly and get some success out of the new core. That’s the hard part, but Millsap hopes to make it as easy as possible.
Chris Singleton Still Figuring Himself Out in Vegas
Summer league in Las Vegas is a time for teams to take a look at players and see what they’ve got with them. Washington Wizards forward Chris Singleton is a perfect example of this, as his coaching staff spent the majority of the last two seasons trying to decide whether he was a small forward or power forward. After a full two years of experimenting and moving him all over the floor, they still don’t have a solid answer on where to play him, and that’s what they’re continuing to explore in Vegas this summer.
Singleton is one of the more experienced players currently playing in Summer League, but he’s got so much work to do on his offensive game that his time in Las Vegas has already been well-spent.
“I’m just trying to show everybody that I can put the ball in the basket. I’m continuing to work on my mid-range jumpshot and put some consistency on it,” Singleton said after Washington’s first game in Las Vegas. “I just want to come out here and score the ball and just play as a team and let the ball come to me. I’m getting open looks, I’ve just got to knock them down.”
At the start of his career, Singleton played a lot of small forward, but the aforementioned jumpshot wasn’t good enough for the Wizards to avoid acquiring two other small forwards in Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster, so Singleton has ended up playing a lot more at the four. Offensively, he’s struggled there, too, but on the defensive end he’s been really solid at both positions, and that is most likely where he’ll continue to make his mark on the team moving forward.
Whatever happens, Singleton wants a shot at the postseason.
“I said last year that if we were healthy we would’ve been in the playoffs. I think we were six or seven games out even though we started so bad,” Singleton said. “With Otto [Porter] and Glen [Rice, Jr.], hopefully we can make that next step.”
Singleton hopes to be a leader in making that progression, not only here in summer league, but when the regular season gets underway as well.
“I’m trying to lead the guys to the best of my ability, to help them get to know the offense and play as a team,” he said about his rookie teammates. “We’ve got to make sure we’re in the right position, so I’m just helping them with the transition. This is good for them.”
More importantly, though, it’s good for him. To be truly versatile enough to play both the three and the four spots on the floor, he’s got to get his jumpshot right. He’s shooting a lot in these Summer League games, so he’s working on it, but the Wizards coaching staff hopes that a few more of them start falling, because if they don’t fall now, they probably won’t fall in the regular season, either.