The Hawks reportedly explored trading Paul Millsap then told him they wouldn’t deal him last summer. During the season, they again reportedly put him on the market then told other teams, Millsap himself and the public he’d stay in Atlanta.
Why the confusion?
The answer could partially explain why the Hawks demoted Mike Budenholzer (former president) and Wes Wilcox (former general manager).
Sources said Wilcox wanted to move Millsap and go all-in on the rebuild, focusing on the team’s young talent like Schroeder, Hardaway and rookies Taurean Prince and DeAndre’ Bembry. But Budenholzer, who had the final say on personnel moves, and who had approved the trade of Teague to Indiana last summer, nixed any more potential deals.
Millsap’s future is first and foremost. (No matter who is picked as GM, Millsap will be dealing directly with Ressler on his contract going forward, I’m told.) Budenholzer and the owners want to do everything possible to re-sign him — “there’s no disagreement on whether we’re going to try and keep him, and whether he’s great for the Atlanta Hawks,” Ressler said.
If he’s negotiating directly with Hawks owner Tony Ressler, that bodes well for Millsap re-signing. Ressler said Atlanta would “make every effort imaginable to keep him” – which would presumably start with a max contract, projected to be worth $205 million over five years. Even Wilcox sounds on board (not that he has much choice once the boss sets the directive).
The Hawks are in a tough spot, forced to pay Millsap major money from age 32 to 37 or lose him for nothing. If they let him walk, they’d be saddled with a highly paid and maybe unhappy Dwight Howard and an only passable young core comprised of Dennis Schroder, Taurean Prince, Tim Hardaway Jr. and DeAndre’ Bembry. Keep Millsap, and the upside is a playoff series or two per year.
Trading Millsap would have prevented this dilemma, though it also might have kept Atlanta out of the playoffs this year.
At this point, moderate winning seems to be the Hawks’ preferred choice, but they don’t control the situation. As an unrestricted free agent, Millsap holds most of the cards.