Making a case for... Paul Millsap
It's well-known that once Rashard Lewis' contract comes off the books in 12 months, then we'll have ample room to sign at least one more long-term piece via free-agency in 2013.
Call me a cynic, but I have a hard time seeing New Orleans luring a 'big star' to Louisiana any time soon- nothing to do with New Orleans itself, or the players (we're a much more attractive prospect than we were 12 months ago), but more in keeping with a long-term NBA trend. Stars- real difference makers- rarely sign for small-market teams as free agents. Small market teams can draft a star, they can trade for one if they have the assets, but it's exceedingly rare to see a star player land anywhere other than with the glamour teams in the big cities.
Thankfully, we've managed to draft one likely star (Davis), and trade for a player with star-quality (Gordon). Obviously, we hope that Rivers develops into something special, and I think it's more likely than not that we'll look to draft another piece in the lottery in 2013. What this means is that, given our cap flexibility, we can look to sign players who are not necessarily stars, but who are both productive and compliment the pieces (primarily Davis and Gordon) that we already have in place. Ryan Anderson was a good example of this kind of signing- he's not an All-Star, but a productive player in the right age-bracket with a skill-set that is valuable to us.
Some people have been speculating about the possibility that we might look to bring in a SF in 2013- it's certainly a position with a question mark right now. Josh Smith, Andre Igoudala and Luol Deng have been three of the names mentioned- all valuable players, however their availability and price remain large question marks. Trading for a player of this calibre might not be an option for us in the short term- we lack trade assets that we would actually be willing to part with (assuming Gordon, Anderson and Rivers remain part of the long-term plan).
One player who seems likely to be available come 2013 is Paul Millsap. At first glance, he would not seem a likely target for us- if we consider Davis and Anderson to be PFs, then signing someone like Millsap would seemingly be pointless. Appearances, however, might be deceiving..
The case for at least looking at Millsap goes something like this: he plays hard, and he produces, consistently. Utah drafted him in the second round, yet he came off the bench and produced. Carlos Boozer got injured, he stepped into their starting line-up and produced. After Boozer came back, Millsap went back to a 6th man role and produced again. Utah gave him a contract that many considered excessive- he just kept producing. The Jazz replaced Boozer with Al Jefferson- Millsap started along side him, and found a way to fit. They traded Deron Williams away, he kept putting up numbers. They introduced Derrick Favors to the rotation, and yet he managed to adapt and continue to find a way to contribute. It's worth noting that Utah have been a play-off team in 5 of his 6 seasons to date.
The guy is a low-maintenance, high energy, consistently productive player. He seems like a Dell/Monty kinda guy- team-first, selfless, quietly spoken, driven- hell, he even attended Louisiana Tech. He also fits the bill as a good, versatile, feasible FA signing, in the right price range ($8-10 million per season) and at the right age (27) for a small market team. There's another reason why thy this could be a feasible scenario in my mind- he actually has a skill set that could compliment Davis and Anderson..
If we're playing Monty's usual style- that is, slow pace with plenty of half-court sets- then Millsap could conceivably mesh with Davis, Anderson and the rest of the team. He scores in a variety of ways, and doesn't necessarily need the ball to be of value. He's effective on the pick and roll, and his shooting range easily extends to a pick and pop scenario. He hustles for offensive boards, finishes well in the paint and is even competent (not great, but competent) in putting the ball on the floor. His shooting range is decent enough to help maintain our spacing, with or without Anderson on the floor. Defensively he's certainly shown a capacity for quick hands (1.8 steals per game last season), and at the least can be relied upon to work hard and grab defensive rebounds. He's consistent, and is effective whether starting or coming off the bench. Given we have a shooting guard who can handle the ball and get into the paint, I don't see any reason why Davis, Anderson and Millsap couldn't co-exist together offensively- all three have decent shooting range and basketball IQ.
If we're looking to start contending in say 2014-15- that is, by Davis' third season- then I think a guy like Millsap could really help us. There are obviously counter-arguments- would his signing obviate the need for a SF?.. do we need to pay more attention the back-court?.. can Davis play a decent amount of time as a C?.. etc etc. In my eyes, he just seems like a Demps-type signing waiting to happen, given the high probability that he'll be available as a FA in 2013. He might lack cache, he may not seem like the obvious signing- but he sure as hell ticks a lot of small boxes. Thoughts?
2010-11- 17.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.4 spg, 53.4 FG%, 75.7 FT%, 34.3 mpg
2011-12- 16.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.8 spg, 49.5 FG%, 79.2 FT%, 32.8 mpg
Highlights from his famous 46 point game against Miami in 2010-11, including several clutch baskets: