The Atlanta Hawks were ousted in the first round by the top-seeded Indiana Pacers. After a fascinating seven-round battle with the top seed, there have been arguments back and forth on whether it was a successful 2013-2014 campaign for the Atlanta Hawks; some say they had overachieved, some say they underachieved. Over the next couple weeks, we will break down the Hawks season and we will dish out grades for each of the Hawks players. Who played well, who was a disappointment, who will be back next year? We will dish out everything you want to hear about the Hawks past season, and what is to come ahead.
First, some quick requirements. We will only feature players that played in at least 10 games with the Hawks this season, so sorry Jeremy Tyler, James Nunnally, and Antawn Jamison; you were all part of the exciting journey in some capacity, but that is all the pub you will get in our season recaps.
Being evaluated today is All-Star power forward Paul Millsap.
As previously discussed in this space, Paul Millsap was the man for the Hawks this season. After spending the first seven years of his career with the Utah Jazz, Millsap signed a two-year, $19 million contract with the Atlanta Hawks, and Millsap was part of a contingency of versatile players that the Hawks brought in to replace Josh Smith.
Millsap fit in really well with Atlanta in year one, and he proved to be far more than a “garbage man” type player. After being drafted in the second round out of Louisiana Tech, Millsap got the reputation of someone that was just a rebounder or a hard worker, if he hadn’t got over that stereotype already, he did so this year. It can be hard for someone who has been in the league for seven years already, or really any player, to break out, but that is exactly what Millsap was able to accomplish this season.
Shinning Moment: This seems to be an easy one, right? Millsap being voted to the All-Star team was one of the coolest individual accomplishments by a Hawks player this season, and that earns the honor. For someone that was taken with the 47th pick in the 2006 NBA draft, becoming an All-Star for the first time in 2013-2014 is quite unheard of. Millsap dropped 25 points or more 11 times for the Hawks this season, the largest amount on the team. Millsap had two 30-point performances this season, and on both occasions, the Hawks emerged victorious. In the first game that Atlanta played after losing Horford for the season, Millsap turned in a huge performance, scoring 33 points and snatching 13 rebounds in leading the Hawks to a two-point win over the Bobcats. In a similar performance just three days later, Millsap led the Hawks to a one-point victory over the Celtics while having his biggest night of the season; dropping in a career-high 34 points and 15 rebounds on 12-for-19 shooting.
Letter Grade: A- Points, assists, defensive rebounds, three-pointers made, three point percentage, usage rate; Millsap posted career highs in categories all over the spread sheet. Some of it could be contributed to being a focal point in a decent offense after the Horford injury, and a great deal can be attributed an expansion in his skillset that included the use of the three-pointer. Millsap had seven career three-point makes in his first seven years in the league, but decided to shoot the ball this season, and did it really well, making 76 three pointers this season. With Utah, Millsap rarely shot from three, and he really connected from three, shooting just 27%, but this season Millsap’s 35.8% was sorely needed for the Hawks. On offense, on defense, basically everywhere, Millsap was superman for the Hawks this season, he seemed to do everything well, except for the fact that he turned the ball over 2.5 times per game, turning the ball over 40 more times this season than in his previous career high.
2014-2015 season outlook: The NBA draft has yet to happen, the free agency period hasn’t even kicked off yet, but for the 2014-2015 season, I am most excited to see a full season where Millsap and Al Horford are on the court together. The two seemed to have incredible chemistry on the court when they played together, and the duo is capable of causing nightmares for the defense. Perhaps Millsap’s production may decline a bit as his usage percentage inevitably goes down when Horford comes back and commands more of the ball, but it is hard to say that Millsap will care, or if that will make him any less valuable. Millsap has shown throughout his career that he can thrive in many different roles, and this past season he added yet another to his resume in being an All-Star. Paul Millsap will be playing for a new contract as his two year deal will expire at the end of next season, and hopefully, he can replicate his debut with Atlanta.