Paul Millsap is a Denver Nugget

The time was 6 a.m. The day was Monday. The date was July 3rd. The year was 2017.

My consciousness is disturbed by a violent vibration as my phone’s alarm sounds at the time I set it to the night before. I had made plans to head to a town near where I live in order to take care of a few personal matters. The bus I would be needing to catch would leave at 8 a.m. and with the bus stop just a minutes walk away, why would I need to wake up so early?

Well, unfortunately for me, my shower here in my home is not a power shower, meaning I have to put on immersion and slumber back to bed while it prepares some hot water that will kickstart my day, rather than just being able to hop into it whenever I want. When I returned to the comforts of my bed, I checked my phone for alerts, to see if any notable free agency news has dropped as I chased my dreams in the depths of the night.

And then I saw the news that I had been dreading: Paul Millsap had agreed to sign a deal with the Denver Nuggets.

I had known that Denver were interested in signing for Millsap (and trading for Millsap when he was under contract prior to the trade deadline) and knew Millsap was more than likely leaving but to see it as official as it gets…it was one of those ‘Oh, that’s it’, kind of moments.

Before leaving home, I sleepily tweeted a few thoughts regarding the news and headed off to meet my brother, who was also taking the same bus as I was.

Once I got to my destination I had time to kill. The bank wasn’t opening until 10, so I checked into a McDonald’s (look, it was the only thing open before 9, which was when I got to where I wanted to get to) and grabbed a cup of tea. It was when I had settled down to drink it did I realise what had actually just happened: Paul Millsap was no longer going to be a Hawks player. And as I watching some Millsap highlights, all I could hear from the McDonald’s radio is “…say you’ll remember me”, the chorus of Taylor Swift’s ‘Wildest Dreams’.

I couldn’t help but laugh, the irony was hilarious. It’s like it knew…

If you didn’t know, I’m an Atlanta Hawks writer. I write at Peachtree Hoops, have been covering the team since 2015 and I have watched almost every single Hawks game in that time period, meaning I have gotten to watch Paul Millsap play on an almost nightly basis. Watching that man play basketball has been the greatest thing about covering the Atlanta Hawks.

Paul Millsap is a wonderful player. He’s so versatile on the offensive end and can score in a variety of ways: can take you off the dribble, in the post, face-up, can shoot the mid-range, shoot the three, can get to the free throw line, he’s an excellent passer etc…I could go on and on — we know Millsap’s body of work too well.

On the defensive end, he was just incredible. He could guard not only his own position but also some centers and — as he often did last season — the opposing teams best player if that player happened to be a forward. Paul George, Carmelo Anthony… And he would do a great job, it was a challenge he loved.

A great teammate, a great professional, a great competitor…I could go on an on. He is just fantastic. I love Paul Millsap’s make-up as an NBA player, and he was the sole reason that I didn’t go absolutely insane watching the 2016-17 Atlanta Hawks, a team I did not enjoy watching at all. For that player to no longer be one that I get to watch on a nightly basis, that saddens me.

The contract that Millsap has reportedly agreed to is astonishing: 3 years, $90 million. The price is not the astonishing part, it’s the fact the third year is a TEAM option. Not a player option or just a regular third year but a TEAM option. That’s quite incredible. As pointed out by Nate Duncan on Twitter, Millsap will earn less guaranteed salary than Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng.

A lot of people possibly thought the market would be tighter this season but to this extremity when it came to Paul Millsap as to not even warrant a guaranteed third year of salary…that is quite incredible.

It was also very interesting that Millsap, as revealed by Millsap himself to Chris Vivlamore of the AJC, wasn’t even offered a contract by the Hawks. I initially though this was a mistake from the Hawks, but what would’ve been the point of low-balling Millsap (as Schlenk conceded long before free agency that other teams may offer Millsap more than the Hawks were able to [read: willing])?

With teams so limited with their cap space this summer (thanks to many teams’ shopping spree last summer when almost everyone had cap space), cap space is such a precious thing to have this summer — more so now than in recent seasons. The Phoenix Suns have taken the approach of being the team that will have cap space ready so that they will be in a position to take on a young player/draft pick, should a team hope to dump salary in order to sign a player, and I think this will benefit them down the road.

If the Hawks weren’t tied down with the contracts of Kent Bazemore and Miles Plumlee, I wonder if they would’ve made Paul Millsap an offer. If the Hawks would’ve had cap space available after agreeing to a deal with Millsap, I wonder if they would’ve…

But since teams are seemingly not in the market for salary dumps, and Schlenk — at least right now — can’t move either/both of those deals, and he simply needed the cap space but in order to have that cap space, Millsap had to be let go.

But letting Millsap go was, ultimately, the right decision. The Hawks with Millsap (and the players that were currently on the team) had a ceiling, and it was not a very high ceiling at all (as the playoffs showed). It made sense to move in a new direction and now the Hawks have the cap space to chase some free agents that will surely have one eye on the future and — as we’ve seen so far — there’s some proper value to be had on the market if you play your cards right — Ben McLemore comes to mind.

And the Hawks are waiting for that value to emerge, there’s no doubt about it.. It’s June 3rd and players have only left Atlanta, not joined. I think the Hawks are waiting for the notable free agents (like Danilo Gallinari, Gordon Hayward, Otto Porter, Andre Roberson, KCP and Nerlens Noel to name a few) to sign with their respective teams and for those teams to use their cap space and then the real value signings will come to the fore.

Your James Johnson’s, your Jonathan Simmons’, your Willie Reed’s, your K.J. McDaniel’s etc…

It’ll be interesting to see how the Hawks proceed from here, what they do with Tim Hardaway Jr. and who they sign, but Millsap’s decision means that the Hawks’ summer can now begin.

Paul Millsap, I am happy you have gotten the money you deserve, even if you deserve more years on that contract. You’ve made the Denver Nuggets one of my must watch teams next season.

It’s been a joy to watch you. Thank you. And good luck.

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