Paul Millsap: Atlanta Hawks’ 2015 1st quarter MVP


Paul Millsap has played at an All-NBA level this season. He’s been the best player on the Atlanta Hawks and it hasn’t even been all that close.

Paul Millsap may have had a tough night on a back-to-back versus the Oklahoma City Thunder Thursday night, but through the Atlanta Hawks’ first 24 games of the 2015-16 NBA season, he has been far and away the team’s best player.

Critics of the Atlanta Hawks say that this team won’t win a NBA Championship because they don’t have a traditional go-to superstar. While Hawks’ fans may view that man on the roster as center Al Horford or gravitate to the great fourth quarter play of point guard Jeff Teague (Teague Time!), the best player on the team and possibly one of the very best in the NBA in 2015-16 is Paul Millsap.

Millsap has played more minutes (811) than any member on the team and leads the club in many statistics, traditional and advanced. He leads the team in points per game (17.8), rebounds per game (9.5), and steals per game (1.9). Not only is he nearly averaging a double-double on the season, the Hawks All-Star power forward leads the team in steals, a statistic long dominated by perimeter defenders.

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When looking at advanced metrics, Paul Millsap leads the team in offensive rating (113) and is the only player with less than a 100 defensive rating (99). He is the best on the Atlanta Hawks when it comes to player efficiency rating (23.3), win shares (3.5), and value over replacement player (1.5).

His closest competitors on the team are Al Horford on the offensive end of the court and small forward Thabo Sefolosha on defense. Millsap exceeds but players in most statistics.

Looking at the Association-wide picture, Paul Millsap is in the Top 10 in many statistical categories: Minutes (9th), free throws (9th), offensive rebounds (10th), defensive rebounds (5th), total rebounds (5th), steals (6th). For a team that shares the ball so well like the Atlanta Hawks do, he’s 19th in points.

Perhaps what is most impressive about Paul Millsap is just how valuable he is to the Atlanta Hawks. He is responsible for the 7th most win shares of any player in basketball. He trails only superstars: Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kyle Lowry, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Kevin Durant. Paul Millsap is also boasts the 9th best value of replacement player in the league. For playing on a team without a superstar, he may actually just be that for the Atlanta Hawks.

Then account for the position he plays for the Atlanta Hawks: power forward. Where are Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Tim Duncan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Zach Randolph, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Love, even LeBron James in these categories?

Surely they are all fantastic players in their own right, but Paul Millsap is proving that he is one of the most versatile players in the NBA. Barring some unforeseen injury, he is essentially a guarantee to make his third consecutive NBA All-Star game. Given the unbelievably efficient level he is playing at, Paul Millsap may earn his first All-NBA nod, the Hawks’ first since Al Horford was 3rd Team All-NBA in 2011.

Can Paul Millsap keep up this ridiculous pace in the final three quarters of the 2015-16 NBA season? He’ll have to cut down some of his minutes, but if he continues to play this effectively for head coach Mike Budenholzer on the Atlanta Hawks, that may prove very difficult.

Next: Atlanta Hawks: Eastern Conference Power Rankings, Dec. 10

We’ve seen Millsap’s rise to prominence since coming to Atlanta in 2013. As long as the Atlanta Hawks stay competitive in the super tight Eastern Conference, the national media will truly understand how special of a player Paul Millsap is and why the Hawks broke the bank to keep their power forward in the Highlight Factory for the foreseeable future. The dude can play! Let’s Go Hawks!