Atlanta Hawks Player Preview: Paul Millsap


Paul Millsap

  • Age: 30
  • Height: 6’8
  • Entering 10th NBA Season
  • College: Louisiana Tech

Paul Millsap #4 2014-2015 Statistics

  • 16.7 points per game
  • 7.8 rebounds per game
  • 3.1 assists per game
  • 1.8 steals per game
  • 47.6 percent field goal percentage
  • 35.6 percent  three-point field goal percentage
  • 75.7 percent free-throw percentage

2014-2015 Season Recap:

During the 2013 offseason Paul Millsap hit the market and was expected to leave the Utah Jazz and cash in on his recent success and bright future. Instead he signed with the Atlanta Hawks for two years and $19 million. An absolute steal for Atlanta. He’s been the NBA’s best value for the last two seasons.

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This past season was a contract year for Millsap and it showed. The power forward led the Hawks in scoring and was arguably their most reliable scoring option. Millsap can score down low and has developed into the perfect stretch-four for Mike Budenholzer’s offense. He even made the All-Star team last season, along with three of his teammates. The way he has carefully perfected his shot selection over his brief Hawks career has been particularly helpful in reaching his ceiling as a basketball player.

Last season 37.5 percent of his field goal attempts came from three feet or less and 23.2 percent of his attempts came from behind the three-point line. Those were shots he attempted the most by a large margin. He shot an impressive 63.9 percent from three feet or less and 35.6 percent from three-point range. Millsap has made 44.2 percent of the corner three-pointers he attempted. It’s like he was cooked up in an analytics laboratory.

He’s a perfect fit for Atlanta’s system and not just for his shot selection. Millsap’s passing last season was an under-mentioned factor in Atlanta’s offensive success. He averaged 3.1 assists per game with an assists rate of 15.4 percent. Many of Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll’s wide open three-point looks came from Millsap’s willingness to pass out of the post. A more selfish number one scoring option would forgo that type of unselfishness to pad their own stats, especially during a contract year, but Millsap showed no signs of that.

Millsap still got his. He led the team in scoring with 16.7 points per game and had 21 games in which he scored 20 points or more. His most impressive performance came in a November 12th game against the Jazz when he scored 30 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and knocked down 4 three-pointers. Millsap showed his former organization exactly what they were missing.

Like most Hawks, Millsap’s performance took a bit of a nosedive during the playoffs. Over 16 games he averaged 15.2 points and 8.7 rebounds per game on 40.7 percent shooting and 30.6 percent from long-range. He did have a reasonable excuse for his relatively poor showing. Millsap injured his shoulder during an April game against the Brooklyn Nets. It continued to bother him for the rest of the season and it was obvious that it hampered his performance.

The battered Hawks ended up losing to an equally banged up Cleveland Cavaliers team in the Eastern Conference Finals. The difference was that the Cavs have the best basketball player in the world. Those days are behind Atlanta and now their focus is on getting revenge.

2015-2016 Season Preview

Millsap took a significant discount to come to Atlanta during the 2013 offseason and he was handsomely rewarded for that this offseason. Millsap finally got the deal the deserved. After flirting with the Orlando Magic, Millsap decided to return to Atlanta on a three-year $59 million deal.

The Magic offered a four-year $80 million contract, but he thought it better to take a three-year deal with a player option after year two so he could hit the market again in 2017, after the salary cap spikes again. Very shrewd in a business sense, but also a move that shows he wants to win and win now.

His new contract makes him the highest paid Hawk. Millsap told Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution that his new deal won’t change much, but he still wants to be more of a leader.

"“I think maybe I can step it up a little more as far as my play and being more of a vocal leader. As far as changing, no. My job is to go out there and play basketball, make the right decisions and help lead this team.”"

The key to his season is obviously health. He seems to be back to one hundred percent after the shoulder issue and at age 30, he is right in the middle of his basketball prime. With another year of continuity with his teammates, and more familiarity with Mike Budenholzer’s system, it’s not unreasonable to imagine Millsap having the best season of his career in 2015-2016.

This video of him working on his three-point shooting is particularly encouraging. Since making an effort to become a more willing three-point shooter during the 2013-2014 season Millsap has been around league average from deep. He shot 35.6 percent from three-point distance last season and 35.8 percent in 2013-2014. For his career he is a 34 percent three-point shooter. Not bad for a big man.

He has increased his three-point shooting volume during the last two seasons, averaging 2.9 threes attempted per game and 3 threes attempted per game respectively. With DeMarre Carroll’s exit the Hawks are down a three-point shooter in their starting lineup which could lead to another uptick in three-point attempts from Millsap.

The closer he gets to 40 percent from outside the more dangerous this Atlanta offensive attack becomes. Can he get that high? That’s questionable, but it looks like he’s well on his way and is set on improving. Am I reading too much into a guy in an empty gym shooting basketballs? Probably, but I’m so fired up for the season that I don’t care. Buy all your Paul Millsap stock now, folks!

Even if he stays near the league average mark of 35 percent with his defensive contributions, low-post scoring and passing ability make him extremely valuable. Rest up, Hawks fans. Let visions of Jeff Teague/Paul Millsap pick and pops dance through your heads. The preseason schedule opens on October 7th against those hated Cleveland Cavaliers. Revenge is a dish best served in late May, but they may as well get started early.

Next: Kent Bazemore Player Preview

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