Atlanta Hawks: The Subtlety of Paul Millsap’s Stardom

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Mar 5, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) leans into Indiana Pacers forward Thaddeus Young (21) as he goes in for a shot during the first quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks finally got Paul Millsap back. Let’s take a look at what makes him so special.

Welcome back, Paul Millsap

The Atlanta Hawks suffered through 8 games without their 4-time All-Star. Thankfully, Paul is now back with the team. The Hawks went 2-6 during that stretch and played at a level that is sometimes difficult to watch. There was little question that the Hawks were going to struggle without him, but it is an interesting snapshot of a picture of a Hawks team without Paul Millsap.

There is no question that Paul Millsap is the most valuable Hawk on their roster. According to the ESPN.com’s Real Plus-Minus, He is 13th in the league in RPM, right behind current MVP candidate, James Harden.

For reference, the next highest ranked Hawk is actually his backup, Ersan Ilyasova, coming in at 74th on the list (Dwight Howard is 82nd).

But, Millsap’s production has always been difficult to measure. He will fill up the stat sheet but without gaudy box score statistics and in non-traditional ways.

This is mentioned in virtually every article about him (see here, here, and even here), but Millsap remains one of the most underrated players in the NBA. But what are the EXACT ways that Paul Millsap’s absence affects this Hawks team?

There is no question he has value (as described above), but for this borderline superstar, his stardom is not quite as in-your-face as some others in the NBA. I think this is one of the reasons Paul is as underrated as he is! His effect on an entire offensive scheme is subtle. But make no mistake, the Atlanta Hawks and Coach Budenholzer orient a lot of what they do around Millsap’s skill set.

Few would describe Millsap as a superstar, yet he is the Hawks go-to scorer, and just last year was named 2nd-team All-Defense. That’s one of the 10 best defensive players in the NBA! There are myriad ways that Paul helps his team win, and the proof of this is too large for this margin to contain (any other math nerds/teachers out there?). But with the Hawks playing Millsap-less, we are able to get a slightly clearer snapshot of his value.

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