The word for nearly two months since the Hawks were eliminated from playoff contention has been the team will do everything in their power to keep Paul Millsap. However, that word has recently changed, as the new Hawks GM spoke with a little different tone on the situation this week. Per Chris Vivlamore of the AJC, “We are going to make Paul our best offer,” Schlenk said. “Will he have better offers? I don’t know. Do we want to keep Paul? Sure. I said last week, if you are building a team with all the things I’ve said, Paul checks all those boxes. He’s a hard-worker. He’s a good guy. He’s high-character. Skilled. He does all that stuff.”
“We’d like to have him. The reality is, he might get better offers than we can make him.”
The Hawks can offer Millsap, 32, a 5-year max worth $205 million, while any other team can only make a 4-year offer worth approximately $152 million. The Anchorman has made the all-star team in all four seasons in Atlanta, and has easily been the team’s best player over their most current run of success. Though his age has to be a concern, and given the current state of the Hawks, Schlenk cannot afford to make a mistake here.
It was not long ago the organization was in a similar situation when deciding whether to re-sign Joe Johnson. Johnson had carried the organization back to the playoffs, but like Millsap, was looking for a long-term max contract going into his late 30s. Atlanta panicked and offered Johnson the full max, which looked like a contract that would be impossible to move. Thankfully, the Brooklyn Nets were just beginning their business of charity work for the rest of the NBA and saved the Hawks by not only trading for Johnson’s contract, but giving Atlanta assets in the process.
Unfortunately, those kind of favors do no come around often, and Atlanta could be doomed for quite some time if they offer Millsap the full five-year max. Schlenk knows as well as anybody what it takes to compete in this league, as he helped build the Warriors from the ground up. Signing Millsap would not only leave the Hawks with an incredibly tough contract to trade, it would not allow them any flexibility to bring in any talent around him.
And that’s something Schlenk is trying to maintain, flexibility.
If Millsap would accept a lesser deal, the team could not only remain competitive now, they would leave themselves open to a quick rebuild later. An aging Paul Millsap may not be enough to topple Lebron James or the Warriors, but he would be tremendous trade bait under a manageable contract.
The problem is, it is hard to see that happening.
Millsap proved loyal to the Hawks once, taking a discount to stay with the team for two more seasons, but this time around things are a little different. Two years ago, Atlanta was coming off a 60-win season, featuring a team that was all about team chemistry. They were coming off the franchise’s first trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, and even though they were swept, they felt like they were on the cusp of something special. Now, Millsap is the only starter still remaining from their 60-win season. Things have gone in reverse for two consecutive seasons, and this time, the difference in offers is not going to be just a couple million.
Several desperate teams will be throwing max contracts at Millsap, and even worse, there will probably be some competitive teams willing to give him a four-year max in hopes he can help put them over the top. If Atlanta cannot offer the most amount of money or any opportunity to win, what else can they offer to a four-time all-star signing his last major contract? Friendship?
The reign of the Anchorman has been nothing but pleasant since his arrival four seasons ago. He has been a true example of what Coach Budenholzer and the Hawks are trying build here. But as they say, all good things come to an end, and at this point, it is better for both sides if they go their separate ways.