Millsap takes step toward free agency, and it might be for the best

Hawks forward Paul Millsap, here in a playoff game against Washington, will become an unrestricted free agent. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Paul Millsap will not opt in for the final season of his contract, and this might be a good time to prepare yourself for another departure.

The Hawks’ best player, who would have earned $21.472 million next season, will become an unrestricted free agent. This had been anticipated for more than a year, was reaffirmed by Millsap the day after the Hawks’ were eliminated from the playoffs by Washington and kinda, has sort of became official. Millsap has informed the Hawks of his intention not to pick up the player option of his contract next season, although technically he has until June 23 to do so. The story, first reported by Yahoo, has been confirmed by the Journal-Constitution’s Chris Vivlamore.

Hawks owner Tony Ressler said he will make “every effort imaginable” to keep Millsap. But it should be noted he said that in the same interview he said coach and president Mike Budenholzer and general manager Wes Wilcox would be retained as his two heads of basketball operations. Two weeks later, Budenholzer stepped down under pressure from his executive position, and Wilcox was bumped down to a”special adviser” role. Wilcox wasn’t even among Hawks’ representatives at the recent scouting combine.

So, no — I’m not assuming the Hawks will give Millsap a five-year max contract (“Bird” rights) based on Ressler’s past comments. Nor should they. Here are my thoughts on Millsap’s potential future with the Hawks or elsewhere:

From the Hawks’ perspective: It makes no sense to give Millsap, who is 32 years old, a five-year max deal that would total about $205 million. The Hawks would be paying more than $47 million in the final year of a deal to a 37-year-old player. I’m not sure maxing Millsap for four years ($152 million) is even a good idea.

The Hawks’ need a major rebuild. They have two other major financial commitments on the roster: Dwight Howard (two years and $47 million remaining) and Kent Bazemore (three years and more than $54 million left). Bazemore is still young and athletic, so he might be trade-able, but the Hawks would not get equal value because he hasn’t lived up to the contract to this point. Keeping him seems the smarter move here, unless it’s for a starting-caliber player. Moving Howard would be extremely difficult because he’s mostly just a rebounder at this stage of his career. To give Millsap even a four-year deal at the max would hamstring the Hawks in the salary cap, if both Howard and Bazemore also are kept.

If Howard or Bazemore would be dealt, keeping Millsap makes some sense. But even then, what is the Hawks’ realistic upside next season? The offseason hasn’t started yet, but any general manager who takes over likely will look at this roster and understand major change is needed. Committing long-term financially to an older player takes away roster flexibility.

This all gets back to what has been said and written several times before: The Hawks should have traded Millsap last summer or before the trade deadline to acquire assets for him. Because now they risk losing him for nothing — just like Al Horford.

From Millsap’s perspective: He said he loves playing for Budenholzer, likes Atlanta and wants to remain a Hawk. On some level, all of that may be true. But Horford said the same stuff last year.

Horford could’ve remained with the Hawks, and he might’ve even been leaning that way. But when the team decided to sign Howard, Horford realized the situation he would be coming back to and looked elsewhere. He took less money to sign with Boston, which finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference and is in the conference finals against Cleveland.

It’s rare for players to leave money on the table, particularly when they know it’s going to be the last big contract of their career. But Horford wanted to win, and Millsap wants to win. Millsap will have no shortage of suitors in free agency, some closer to contending for a title than the Hawks.  For him to stay, he’s going to have to hear convincing arguments from Ressler and the Hawks’ new general manager about their plans for the organization for him to stay. But if wants to contend for a title soon, staying might not be his best option.

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Reader Comments 0

18 comments
tyger
tyger

Re-sign Hardaway Jr. ASAP...


THJ is one move they got right...

Price tag increased b/c of productivity...

Trading away while arcing upward is dumb...

Not ready for primetime (playoffs) keeps salary reasonable...


Lottery picks are crap shoots...especially w Hawks...

Tony Parker, #28, Kawhi Leonard #15, Manu Ginobili #57..

Proves you don't have to tank to acquire upper level talent...


Exiting death spiral of tanking non-guaranteed...

see 76ers, Nets, Twolves, Lakers, Boston...


Yes, Boston...Big Al turned that around, not Young, Smart, Rozier...

All fine backups... but tossing seasons for backups not ideal...  

Plus, Boston, Lakers' fans spoiled, can grin, bear for future chips...


Not so much in ATL...2-3 consecutive duds, they'll be in Seattle...

ProudAmerican2017
ProudAmerican2017

Millsap is the best thing that the Hawks have now.  He is one of the hardest working basketball players in the league now. If they let him go then I am finished with the Hawks.

B_D
B_D

Although it is already in place, the Hawks will have let 2 All-Star players walk with no compensation for them.  I am glad the owner is making the change.  That we get nothing for Al or Paul is disgraceful.  We need a good GM.  The 2nd worst part of this is that we have some good role players on the team and we probably will have to sacrifice a few of them to get some top level talent.

tyger
tyger

@B_D Ownership just as liable as mgt.; Hawks cheap, FA did not walk by happenstance...

KBP
KBP

@Dawgnole, you do realize they went to consecutive NBA Finals without Durant don't you?

tyger
tyger

Hawks Easy Button 2.0


Shroder       Sumner (31)   Calderon

Hardaway   Bembry            Delaney

Prince          Poythress        Jok

Gay              Patton 

Howard       Humphries

KBP
KBP

Offer Millsap a 3 year, 50 million dollar deal. If he does not take it, let him walk. You can't build a championship team around Paul Millsap and that's not a knock against him because there are HOF players that could not carry a franchise to a championship. You can't max money a player who does not require a double team and no team in the league doubles Paul nor Dwight nor anyone else on our roster. I said on one of these blogs 2 years ago, we should have gone the way of the Celtics and TANKED for 2-3 years. Who is better set up to compete for championships during the next 5 years, Celtics or Hawks? The Warriors drafted well with their lottery picks (Steph and Clay) and great scouting got them Draymond and they've added pieces to that core. Our GM hire will determine our fate for the next 3-5 years. No way Dwight should have been here and no way Bazemore should be paid like an upper echelon player. 

DawgNole
DawgNole

@KBP: "The Warriors drafted well with their lottery picks (Steph and Clay) and great scouting got them Draymond and they've added pieces to that core."

_______________

They've added "pieces"???

Primarily one HUGE piece--Kevin Durant.


jexo
jexo

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jcarson
jcarson

What a nightmare of a league when only a couple of teams have a chance of winning a championship each year.

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

@jcarson You are absolutely right about that. It has been a real eye opener to watch the East and West championship series. Sure. Things can happen during the season, and always do. And teams have their ups and downs, as Cleveland did. But now Cleveland and Golden State are in full "play-off" mode - and they are two teams who know what that means - an they are so far above and beyond the competition, that these ongoing championship series are nothing but a joke. I have not watched one complete game in either series. Why bother? 


Too bad for the Spurs, with their best player and an NBA  championship winning veteran sitting it out. They would definitely be giving Golden State a run for their money (and it would have been a great series to watch) had Leonard and Parker been able to play. 


This is not true for Boston and Thomas, by the way. He is a great player, but he would not be making any difference at all if he were able to play. Cleveland had his number from the get go. 


You can only imagine what Cleveland and Golden State would do to this league if they were in "play off" mode all year long. Probably ruin it. There have been dominant teams before, but nothing like this. Even back in the Celtics-Lakers, Johnson and Bird rivalry years, those teams had to win close and tough championship series games to get a crack at each other. No longer. It is definitely all out of whack now. 

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Ficklefan

Guess you should've watched last night's CLE-BOS game--in which IT did not play. BOS didn't even need him, as it turned out.

Hell Horsey
Hell Horsey

Any player looking to win a title should walk right past Atlanta. No championships coming here any time soon.

pride
pride

Our ongoing problem is attracting top players and you say Millsap (our MVP player) going elsewhere could be for the best.  Brilliant analysis

BlawgDawg
BlawgDawg

@pride  What have the Hawks accomplished WITH Millsap? Nothing. If they sign him, the club is financially hamstrung to strengthen the team with a top free agent. Basically, they're screwed no matter what they do. Typical poor management.

DawgNole
DawgNole

"Millsap will have no shortage of suitors in free agency, some closer to contending for a title than the Hawks . .  . But if [he] wants to contend for a title soon, staying might not be his best option."

________________

Closer to contending for a title than the Hawks?!

IF he wants to contend for a title SOON?!

Absolutely stomach-churning for longtime Hawks fans that--after nearly half a damn century in ATL, without so much as even one appearance in the Finals--this is STILL the situation facing this woebegone franchise.

Jdub2500
Jdub2500

DawgNole...you said all that needs to be said.