Al Horford left last summer, and now Paul Millsap might be the next big name out the door in Atlanta as the Hawks organization is undergoing a major on-court shift.
Millsap has been expected to opt out this summer because, as a 10-year veteran, he can chase a massive, $35 million a year payday with a new deal. That apparently is not going to be happening in Atlanta. Chris Haynes tweeted about the issue, then Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst of ESPN added details.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Hawks, fearful of losing Millsap in free agency in the summer without compensation, are not openly shopping him but taking calls on the 31-year-old and their other pending free agents, notably sharpshooter Kyle Korver and swingman Thabo Sefolosha.
Although the Hawks managed to sign Dwight Howard in free agency last summer to fill a frontcourt void, they were stung by the free-agent departure of Al Horford from the perspective that Horford, in the words of one source with knowledge of the team’s thinking, got away “for nothing.”
The feeling within the organization now, sources said, is that it’s best to gauge the trade market for Millsap, Korver and Sefolosha between now and the Feb. 23 trade deadline to guard against a repeat scenario as much as the Hawks can.
Millsap is a three-time All-Star with a versatile game — he can score around the basket, he can hit threes (30.8 percent this season), he is a smart defender who plays very well as a help defender in the system (he’s made the NBA’s All-defensive team), and he is strong on the glass. He could fit into any system. Plenty of teams could use him.
Kyle Korver can still space the floor as a shooter, and Thabo Sefolosha is a “3&D” wing who still defends well but who has struggled some with his shot.
The Hawks will not get near equal return for Millsap, in part because he can be a free agent and seems to want to test the market — he’s a rental. Millsap also is going to be expensive to keep, demanding a max contract that he would be able to live up to for a couple of years, but he will turn 32 in February and in a four or five year deal the last year or two could see him in decline (and still very expensive).
Korver and Sefolosha also could be rentals, which will depress their trade value.
Also factoring into the trade equation: How badly do the Hawks want to make the playoffs. As of Sunday before games started they are the five seed in the East, but in the middle of a large group — only four games separate Charlotte at the four seed and Orlando with the 11 seed. Without Millsap, the Hawks could easily fall out of the playoffs.
Atlanta has Dwight Howard, Dennis Schroder, and Kent Bazemore locked up for a few years, but are undergoing an organizational shift now that will test Mike Budenholzer’s skills as a GM and team builder.