If there’s one thing the Brooklyn Nets aren’t short on, it’s basketball talent. For the team, that’s a good thing.
For Paul Millsap personally? Not so much.
Now in his 16th year, after just 24 games in Brooklyn, the 36-year-old veteran big man is looking for a new opportunity.
Since he signed on in Brooklyn last summer, the Nets have seen Nicolas Claxton and Day’Ron Sharpe become reliable role players and LaMarcus Aldridge return from retirement. Meanwhile, 32-year-old Blake Griffin has maintained his place in the rotation, effectively leaving Millsap as the odd man out.
Of the five, he averages the fewest minutes per game (11.3 — a career low) and is the only one who hasn’t started a single contest. Considering his pedigree, his unhappiness should come as no surprise.
Millsap effectively lost his job with the Denver Nuggets after the team acquired Aaron Gordon, and he chose to sign with Brooklyn because the team was perceived to have a shallow front court.
Surprisingly, though, it is Millsap who has drowned in the rotation.
With the NBA’s Feb. 10 trade deadline approaching, there are a few teams which could both afford Millsap the opportunity to play meaningful minutes and contend for a championship. Whether the Nets trade him or buy him out, Millsap will eventually find a new home this season. If he’s fortunate, it’ll be with one of these clubs…
After starting 70 games for the NBA champion Bucks last season, incumbent starter Brook Lopez hasn’t appeared in a game since October. Currently recovering from back surgery, the Bucks are hopeful that Lopez can return before the playoffs begin, but as of now the team is rather thin up front.
Bobby Portis has filled in admirably since Lopez has gone down, and he’s played well enough as a starter for head coach Mike Budenholzer to wonder whether Portis should retain the starting job even after Lopez returns. On the season, Portis is shooting a remarkable 41.4% from three-point territory. Although it’s an appreciable decrease from the 47% he shot last season, that he’s come close to maintaining his proficiency is an accomplishment, considering he’s taking nearly twice as many attempts per game (4.5 this season compared to 2.4 last season).
It’s not difficult to imagine a scenario where Millsap is able to give coach Budenholzer some minutes up front, especially considering the gaping hole that’s been left in the team’s rotation with Lopez’s injury.
Over the past 15 years, one of the constants in the NBA is that Chris Paul is going to find a way to maximize the players and the talent around him. We’ve seen it since CP3 was suiting up in New Orleans, and we’ve seen it most recently with Bismack Biyombo.
Unfortunately for the big man, Biyombo’s career story — at least before arriving in Phoenix — has mostly been one about unfulfilled expectations. He was not re-signed by the rebuilding Charlotte Hornets after his contract expired last season and went unsigned for the first-half of this season.
Because of injuries to Deandre Ayton and JaVale McGee, the Suns found themselves with a need in the frontcourt and, without fail, Biyombo has experienced quite the resurgence. Through nine games in Phoenix, he is averaging what would be a career-high 10.8 points per game on 70.2% shooting from the field. He’s benefited greatly from playing alongside Paul, as well as with units that share the ball and play relatively fast.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, approximately 67% of Biyombo’s field goal attempts come within three feet of the basket, with another 30% coming from 3-10 feet.
In other words, he’s excelled by providing the team with an inside presence that the Suns are sorely missing without Ayton, and it’s conceivable that Millsap could provide a similar interior offensive presence.
After hovering around .500 for the early part of the season, the Mavericks are 10-3 in 2022. Both Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis have missed a fair share of games this season, but recent reports suggest that the Mavericks — who want to continue to build around their duo — are open for business.
In recent weeks, there have been reports citing Myles Turner and Dennis Schroder as players the Mavericks have some level of interest in, but Turner recently suffered a stress reaction in his left foot that may sideline him until after the trade deadline.
To make matters worse, Tim Hardaway Jr. fractured the fifth metatarsal in his left foot and is expected to be out for an extended period of time. Millsap won’t necessarily help absorb any of the available minutes in the Mavericks’ backcourt, but he would help the team by providing another serviceable body who can help replace the 14.2 points per game they’ll lose with Hardaway out of the lineup.
Along with Porzingis, Dorian Finney-Smith, Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber have played most of the available big man minutes for Jason Kidd’s team. It’s difficult to imagine Millsap, even at 36 years old, not being able to provide value to a front line featuring those three.
With Turner potentially off the board and Hardaway on the shelf, Dallas will certainly have to find help elsewhere, especially with the team finally beginning to click after its season got off to a rough start.
Patrick Williams was lost for the season back in October, and in January the Bulls have had players dropping like flies.
Zach LaVine only missed five games and returned to the lineup on Monday night after suffering a minor left knee injury, but neither Alex Caruso nor Lonzo Ball were as fortunate. Ball and Caruso will each miss the next 6-8 weeks, with Derrick Jones Jr. out for a similar time frame. Meanwhile, Nikola Vucevic is battling left knee soreness.
The Bulls need bodies, and it would help if they happened to be big.
Although there probably won’t be many shots available for Millsap, he would provide immediate help to a Bulls front line that ranks 28th in the league in rebounds.
DeMar DeRozan has spent some time at power forward for Chicago this season, which isn’t ideal. DeRozan — who has slowed down in recent weeks after being mentioned among MVP candidates earlier this season — would be better served by having another big in the lineup.
Although Chicago will be without Ball and Caruso for the foreseeable future, the team will need another big body or two if it hopes to challenge the likes of Milwaukee and Brooklyn for the Eastern Conference. Millsap could help.
Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside have proven to be a formidable tandem patrolling the paint for the Jazz, and they’ve also proven that a team can still find success in today’s NBA by playing traditional big men.
Although Millsap wouldn’t provide the same spacing as Bojan Bogdanovic or Rudy Gay, he would provide the team with some needed insurance in the event that Gobert or Whiteside went down for an extended period of time.
Aside from the fact that Millsap began his career in Utah, he would also facilitate some offensive balance for the team — according to NBA.com, the Jazz score 38.6% of their points from three-point territory, which ranks third in the league. With respect to points scored in the paint, they rank 16th, with just 42.4%.
Millsap still possesses a back-to-basket game and could help Utah in one of the areas they need to improve.
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