It looks as if the Atlanta Hawks will be sellers at the trade deadline. They’ve already sent Kyle Korver to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the contract of the retired Mo Williams, Mike Dunleavy and a 2019 first round pick and now it seems like three time All-Star Paul Millsap is the next man up on the trading block.
Every time an All-Star caliber player starts coming up in trade rumors, the Boston Celtics get mentioned as a possible destination; that’s just how the world works. Millsap is a very good player and he would be able to improve the roster of almost every team across the NBA but there is a risk/reward factor to every transaction and the idea of this trade definitely has it’s fair share of risks.
Is a potential trade worth it? Fans across New England surly have an opinion on the idea of such a deal as they do with most rumors and here are the pros and cons behind trading for Paul Millsap.
Pro: Rebounding upgrade
Everybody who follows the Celtics knows that even the smallest rebounding upgrade would go a long way for this team, and Millsap gives them just that. He’s currently averaging 11.7 rebounds per 100 possessions, which would put him second on the Celtics behind only Tyler Zeller (12.5) among players with at least 25 appearances this year. It’s also very reasonable to expect that number to go up if Millsap was traded to Boston. The 11.7 rebounds per 100 possessions is actually the lowest average in his 11-year NBA career, but a lot of that could be because he’s now sharing a front court with Dwight Howard instead of Al Horford. Howard has been a dominant rebounder his entire career and he’s currently fourth in the league in rebounding and leading the NBA in offensive rebounds while his former teammate and current Celtic Horford – as fans in Boston are quickly are learning – struggles on the glass as he is currently behind Zeller, Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, Kelly Olynyk and Avery Bradley in rebounds per possession. It’s likely that Millsap would come in and instantly take command of the glass, moving closer to his career average of 13.1 rebounds per 100 possessions.
Con: Possible rental
Millsap has a player option after this season and ever since the cap explosion last summer, there’s a good chance he opts out of his deal and tests the open market. The new CBA makes it easy for teams to resign their own players, but it will still cost the Celtics a pretty penny going forward and giving Millsap north of $25 million per season probably isn’t the most ideal way for Boston to burn cap space when there will be a number of other free agents out there that Boston could have interest in; like Blake Griffin and Gordon Hayward. He’d come in and provide a huge upgrade over Amir Johnson in the starting lineup right away, but we saw Ainge be very hesitant with giving up anything for a possible rental last winter and there’s really no reason why that would change in this situation. You can always ask the player if he’d be willing to waive his right to opt out – like the team reportedly did with Dwight Howard last season at the deadline – but it’s hard to find any motivation for Millsap to agree on those terms.
Pro: Plays well with Horford
Paul Millsap and Al Horford have logged a lot of minutes together; 3,667 over their three years together in Atlanta to be exact. The duo never had a negative plus/minus rating in any of those seasons together and at their best they were a +7.4 per 100 possessions together during the 2015-15 season. This All-Star frontcourt helped the Hawks to a 146-100 regular season record, playoff appearances in each of the three years they were together and they even got out of the first round twice, which included a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2015 and a first round victory over the Celtics last spring. Brad Stevens has struggled to adjust to new players at times – most notably when he had to use 33 different players over his first two years on the job – but he was finally able to post a winning record last year when the roster stayed put all year outside of the release of David Lee and inserting a few D-League players on and off the team on 10-day contracts. This potential trade would be the biggest in season move that Stevens has seen in two years but it should be fairly easy because of the chemistry that Millsap already has with the man he’d be sharing the frontcourt with.
Con: You’re becoming the Hawks
Atlanta isn’t bad by any means. They’ve made the playoffs nine consecutive seasons and have had far more playoff success under Mike Budenholzer compared to the Brad Stevens-era in Boston – which is easy to compare because they both began their tenures at the start of the 2013-14 campaign – but it really hasn’t gotten them that close to a championship. There were some people out there who thought could knock off Cleveland in the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals, but it was mostly false hope from the LeBron James haters across the country and they quickly found out that the Hawks had no shot of winning that series as the Cavaliers eased their way to a 4-0 sweep. Millsap makes the Celtics a better team but it’s a very Hawks-like squad as he’s probably the piece Boston needs to jump Toronto as the second team in the conference, but it really doesn’t get them that close to jumping Cleveland. This makes a potential trade even worse if Millsap winds up being a rental, as previously mentioned. Ainge would have given up some of the team’s assets to have a player for a few months so they can lose in the conference finals instead of the second round while not doing anything to help the team contend in future seasons.
Pro: Cost shouldn’t be that high
Trading for Millsap won’t command anything close to what you hear in Jimmy Butler or Kevin Love rumors. The Nets picks will be protected and you’ll also likely get to keep 19-year old wing Jaylen Brown. Atlanta could still be wooed by an attractive picks package with Boston having both Grizzlies and Clippers first round picks in 2019 as well as their own first round pick in 2018 and beyond; the Celtics also have a number of second round picks (2017 Cavaliers, 2017 Clippers, 2017 Kings, 2017 Timberwolves, 2019 Pistons, 2020 Heat) that could be tossed into a picks package as sweeteners. Expiring contracts like Amir Johnson and Tyler Zeller would be attractive to the Hawks as solid players who can contribute a little for them right away and keep cap space open over the summer but their big prize in terms of a player might wind up being the high ceiling of Terry Rozier. Atlanta is currently rolling with 27-year old undrafted rookie Malcolm Delaney as their backup point guard but bringing in the flashy 22-year old Rozier would be an upgrade for them at a position they have very little depth at while also giving them a former first round pick who has yet to tap into his full potential. Giving up on a second year pro with a high ceiling like Rozier is never easy, but he’s not getting the Celtics anywhere right now because he’s stuck behind the backcourt trio of Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart.
Con: Blocks 2016 first round stash picks
Boston took two big men – Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic – in the first round this past summer and then stashed them both overseas for the year. This isn’t a Colton Iverson situation. He was an American born player who spent five years in college and then was a late second round pick in a draft where nine of the players selected (15% of 60 players taken) never played a single NBA game. Yabusele and Zizic are younger first round picks from a much deeper draft who needed a little extra time to get ready and it seemed like with Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko and Tyler Zeller all set to be free agents this summer that it would open the door for them to arrive in Boston. Millsap could always leave after spending just half a season with the Celtics – which would be a waste of trade assets if it doesn’t get you closer to a title – but inking him to the long term deal he’ll seek this summer would also get in the way of these stashed players. For what it’s worth, they’re both playing some outstanding basketball overseas right now too and there’s a lot of reasons to be excited for them. Yabusele, 21, is the leading rebounder and second leading scorer on the first place Shanghai Sharks in the Chinese league while Zizic, 19, was averaging 20.0 PPG, 9.2 RPG and 1.3 BPG with a team in Croatia before moving to a team in Turkey just last week.