It doesn't make sense to say that the 47th player chosen in an NBA Draft could end up being its most productive player, but that statement could, in fact, end up being true. After another sensational season, Paul Millsap is poised to become the most prolific player from the 2006 Draft.
Do-It-All Paul had a historic 2015-16 campaign. The 31-year-old became the first player in NBA history to surpass 250 assists, 125 blocks, 125 steals, 700 rebounds, and 50 three-pointers in the same season. He was the only player who ranked in the top 10 in both steals and blocks. He also made a third consecutive All-Star appearance, a feat not lost on one of his original NBA teammates, Indiana Pacers forward C.J. Miles.
"(Paul) is just ... my man. It's just fun to see guys who you started out with see success, play well and make names for themselves. He's an All-Star," Miles said earlier this season, emphasizing the honor with equal parts appreciation and wonder.
A decade ago, the Utah Jazz selected Millsap, a three-time NCAA rebounding champion, with the 47th pick after having selected Miles with the 34th pick a season earlier. The pair played six seasons together in Utah, and Miles appreciates Millsap even more because of their shared, unheralded beginnings.
"It's just great to see what he has been able to do in this league," Miles said, "and I'm happy for him. He's one of the guys that I have a bond with. It's a little bit more than basketball just because we started together."
Millsap wasn't the only great player in his draft class. Stars like LaMarcus Aldridge, J.J. Redick and Kyle Lowry were all chosen before Millsap, as were Mouhamed Sene, Kosta Perovic, Denham Brown, Marcus Vinicius and Lior Eliyahu. It should be noted that Millsap didn't outperform his draft class solely on the talent with which he entered the league; each year he worked diligently in the summer to get better. In fact, Millsap himself said that he hopes that he and his teammates will make strides to improve this offseason.
"The sky is the limit," Millsap said. "Every player on this team has to take getting better and bringing something different to the table seriously this summer."
This past season served as proof that Millsap has put in the work to be great. Before the 2015-16 season is gone for good, let's take a minute to savor a few of the subtle ways in which Millsap grew as a player and added to his game.
Verticality: Forget the fact that the NBA's blocks leaderboard consisted of the 6-foot-8 Millsap and a bunch of 7-footers. Millsap also showed that he was fully capable of protecting the rim even when he didn't block the shot. He demonstrated masterful body control in the paint, routinely elevating high and keeping his arms straight up. The results were prodigious, and if you don't believe me, check out the numbers from our friends at Nylon Calculus.
Playing center: When Head Coach Mike Budenholzer looked for scoring punch, he occasionally opted for a front court of Mike Scott and Millsap. In those situations, Millsap dealt with the job of guarding opposing centers. Not only did the tactic succeed in the regular season, but it worked to the point where Budenholzer opted for it even more frequently in the postseason.
The in-between game: Millsap made 45.8 percent of his shot attempts between 8 and 16 feet from the basket. For a big man shooting from that distance that often, that's an incredibly accurate level of marksmanship. Perhaps what was most impressive was his mid-flight body control. Or perhaps it was the variety of ways in which he finished such crafty shots: with his left or right hand, at the peak of his leap or just before landing, with his face to the basket or after backing his man down. No matter the circumstances, Millsap had a maneuver in his repertoire for finding a quality shot.
Defense: Blocks, verticality and steals were all parts of it, but Millsap's overall defense deserves a word of praise. He locked in on prime defensive assignments all season long, and no one could claim they had quicker, stronger hands on defense this season. For his efforts, Millsap finished fifth in the Defensive Player of the Year vote.
Burst: It was clear from the first game of the season against Detroit that Millsap had a level of explosiveness in his leaps and his speed that went beyond his usual high levels. That same burst showed itself over the course of 81 games, and it helped him set career highs in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals.
Story by KL ChouinardTwitter: @KLChouinard