Season Review: Paul Millsap
Lucas Armstrong/Atlanta Hawks
Note: We use stats per 36 minutes instead of stats per game on the graphics. The reason behind that is stats per 36 tell a more complete story of how a player did while he was on the court, as opposed to per game stats which averages a player’s stats based on the number of games that player appeared in, regardless of how many minutes he played. The per 36 minutes compares all players equally by taking the minutes played out of the equation to measure the most effective players during their time on the court.
In his first season with the Hawks, Paul Millsap quickly established himself as one of the team's leaders in the locker room and on the court, earning his first career All-Star selection. He averaged 17.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.1 blocks in 33.5 minutes per game -- setting career-highs in points and assists.
Millsap flourished in the Hawks' offense, and was able to exhibit the many different offensive weapons in his arsenal. After playing primarily out of the post and spot-up looks from the mid-range in Utah, Millsap came into the season excited about playing in Coach Bud's offense that would allow him to play more in space in pick-and-roll/pop plays and with the off-ball motion of the offense. While always a good mid-range shooter, Millsap expanded his shooting range to the three-point line where he shot 35.8 percent on 2.9 attempts per game -- well above his previous career high of 0.5 attempts per game. Becoming that consistent three-point threat opened up the floor for Jeff Teague and the rest of the Atlanta offense to operate and created opportunities for himself to pump-fake and drive to the basket.
Early in the season, Millsap and Al Horford quickly became one of the most explosive offensive frontcourts in the league and put a lot of pressure on defenses to step outside the paint and cover them in the mid-range and -- for Millsap -- behind the three-point line. Prior to Horford's injury, Millsap was shooting an incredible 47.1 percent from three-point range, benefiting from the attention Horford commanded from opposing bigs.
After the Horford injury, Millsap took on the role of being the Hawks primary scorer, as his usage jumped from 23.3 percent to 26.5 percent and his points per game jumped from 16.7 to 18.7 as the top option in the offense. As his usage increased and defenses focused their attention on him without Horford on the court, his efficiency took a hit as he shot 31 percent from three-point range and 44.7 percent from the field as a whole, but even still he was exceptional at both ends of the floor as he helped the Hawks stay in the playoff hunt.
On defense, Millsap was very strong against the pick-and-roll and post-ups, ranking 70th in the NBA in points per possession allowed in both of those categories, per Synergy Sports. He was active in rotations at the rim and was very good at getting in passing lanes to deflect or steal the ball. Millsap's 1.7 steals per game were good for ninth in the NBA this season, and his 101.9 defensive rating for the season was 20th best in the NBA, per Basketball-Reference.com.
With Horford returning, the Hawks figure to have one of the top frontcourts in the league next season. Millsap proved this season that he is more than capable of shouldering the load and was rewarded with a well-deserved All-Star selection. Adding Horford to Millsap for -- hopefully -- a full season could create one of the most dangerous scoring 4-5 combos in all of the NBA, and on defense both players are underrated and both extremely effective. Horford was the known commodity coming into this season in Atlanta, but Millsap proved himself to be well worth the signing this past offseason and Hawks fans should be extremely excited about the possibilities next season with these two leading the way.
Click here to see Millsap's season gallery
Story by Robby Kalland