We’ve reached perhaps the only basketball-free week of the calendar year. The draft is over and undrafted guys have been hungry hungry hippoed up, in four days, free agency will kick off and Summer League (SUMMER LEAGUE!!!) will begin. But for now it’s (relatively) quiet. So what should we do with our free time?
Talk about Paul Millsap, duh!
Millsap’s is a name that has been coming up in a lot of Timberwolves discussions, and it’s not hard to see why. The move for Jimmy Butler (miss ya, Zach) changes the timeline of this team. It’s what they in the biz call a “win now move.” Millsap plays a position of need and would help this team win now.
So who is this Millsap guy anyway?
Millsap is on the smaller end for a power forward. He’s 6’8 and 245 pounds with a seven-foot wingspan, which is almost the exact measurements as LeBron (6’8, 250), and is able to overcome most height differential with skill, savvy, and a deceptive nimbleness. Fun fact: according to Basketball-Reference, his nickname is “The Anchorman.” I’m betting because he does a sick Will Ferrell impression.
He averaged a career-high 18.1 points last season along with 7.7 boards and 3.7 assists, a terrific number for a big man. Though he only shot 31% from three, he’s had two recent seasons where he’s shot over 35% on around three attempts a game. The Wolves have more talent than the Atlanta team he played on last season, and would probably help him get his efficiency back.
The most important thing Millsap would bring to this team is his leadership. KAT is a born leader but only just reached legal drinking age. Butler is an all-out grinder and as dedicated to getting better as anyone in the league, but when he took the leadership mantle from Rose and Noah on the Bulls, it wasn’t exactly a smooth transfer of power. From Zach Lowe in December of 2015:
But his rise has engendered some minor hard feelings within the team. There is a sense that Butler relishes the trappings of stardom a bit too much, and that he doesn’t do enough to support his teammates, as a playmaker or a cheerleader. The Bulls have been unusually vulnerable to infighting when things go bad during a game. They are not a team that socializes together off the floor.
Millsap, by all accounts, is the consummate teammate and leader. Here’s Coach Bud on him:
His defining moment of the season (for me) was in late January, when Millsap led the Hawks to a 142-139 victory in a QUARDRUPLE OVERTIME GAME against the Knicks. He played 60 minutes, which ties him at 8th-most minutes ever played in a single NBA game with a bunch of guys, including… Jimmy Butler (LOL Thibs), and posted a stat-line of 37 points, 19 rebounds and 7 assists. Here’s the full highlights of one of the craziest games I’ve ever witnessed:
He sounds amazing. Why are you being such a downer in your headline?
He is amazing. He’s a great player who would be a perfect power forward next to KAT. He would be a perfect power forward pretty much anywhere, and that’s the problem. Rumor has it the Hawks are looking at sign-and-trade options, but even if they can’t find a dance partner, he is almost certain to get a max contract, from the Denver Nuggets, the Kings (for some reason) or Suns. I personally think the Trail Blazers should try to sell off some of their contracts in a sign-and-trade, because like with every other team, Millsap would be perfect next to Nurkic.
All this means that should Millsap sign with a new team, he’s likely to command a 4-year salary of almost $150 million, starting at over 30 million in year one, and likely reaching almost $40 million in year four, when Millsap is 36 years old and Wiggins and KAT are finally of age to rent a car.
The Wolves as it stands have about $19 million in cap space this summer. Using my impressive high school math skills, I can safely deduct that 19 million is less than 30 million. Ricky Rubio has the second-highest salary on the team behind Jimmy Butler, so once again, he goes back on the trading block. It would be hard to trade him without taking back contracts, though Utah has interest and young players that could appeal to Tom Thibodeau should he decide to let Tyus Jones start and use Jimmy as the primary ball handler.
Even if they took back zero dollars, though, it only puts them around $25 million. Dieng is on a decent contract and is probably moveable but then almost all their depth is gone. Starters will always be the most important thing for Thibs teams that rarely leave the floor, but you need to have bench players who can step in and keep the ship afloat — something Thibs hopefully discovered after last season’s dumpster fire of a bench.
Cole Aldrich is a third-string center at best. Patton has tons of potential but is Eddie Murphie raw. They can go over the cap to re-sign Shabazz, but would still be painfully thin on the wing. With Dunn (and LaVine, to a much lesser extent) gone, Tyus Jones would be the only remaining PG on the roster should Rubio be traded. The Wolves need to be diversifying their investment, not putting all their money on one (good-to-great) player, and none of this even takes into account the money that will soon be due Wiggins (likely a restricted free agent next summer), Towns or Butler (both free agents in 2019). Money will soon be very tight even without adding a 30+ year old max contract this summer.
So while I truly believe that a Wiggins-Butler-Millsap-Towns core four would be a dream, I think it’s one best left to twitter columns and wistful What If’s.