Currently, the Hawks sit at 31-23 with the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games, and often noted to be streaky rather than consistent. In all likelihood, we’ll see the Hawks make the playoffs again, but fail to make any real noise in the postseason when they run into a contender like the Cavaliers, or a notably dominant eastern team like the Celtics or the Wizards.
With that in mind, it’s important to look to the future and see the Hawks’ plan for building a team that can contend in the Eastern Conference like they did in 2014. A crucial player in the midst of this is Paul Millsap.
Nicknamed the “Anchorman” and the Hawks only All-Star this season, Millsap has shown his versatility as a top defender and great scorer. He leads the Hawks in PPG this season with 18.1, while also grabbing 8.0 boards a game and contributing 3.8 assists per game (Millsap’s RPG and APG are both second on the Hawks). Defensively, he averages almost a block a game and 1.5 steals a game, also second for the Hawks in both categories.
However, the 32-year-old All-Star puts the Hawks in a dilemma. His contract includes a $21.5 million player option for 2017-2018, but Millsap could likely find a better contract in free agency. Which means the Hawks must either resign Millsap to a lucrative contract (likely a max deal), let the Anchorman walk, or convince him to stay on his player option. Millsap will probably only take his player option if he cannot get any better options in free agency and if the Hawks elect to not give him a new contract, which is very unlikely. So, do the Hawks give their aging star a big contract, or do they let their best player walk?
If the professionalism and effort that Millsap has put forth for Atlanta is considered, it’s absolutely ridiculous to suggest he doesn’t deserve a big contract. But, giving a 32-year-old a max contract is a questionable decision when looking at the big picture and the future of the franchise. Leading to the conclusion that the Hawks will likely offer Millsap a reasonably large contract, but not the max contract he could find in free agency. Millsap’s future with the Hawks will depend on if he wants to stay in Atlanta, or if he wants to take a max deal somewhere else.
Millsap is a great complement to a team that is one position away from contending, but he isn’t the type of player that can carry a team to the Finals. He has been a great Hawk, one of the best Power Forwards in the league, and a true professional, but given the circumstances that surround him, he likely won’t be suiting up for Atlanta in October of 2017.