Paul Millsap spent the first seven seasons of his NBA career with the Utah Jazz. Could a return to Salt Lake City be in the works?
The Utah Jazz have become a relatively trendy pick to upset the Golden State Warriors in the 2017 playoffs. Gordon Hayward was named a 2017 Western Conference All-Star, and Rudy Gobert was one of the first players left off of the team. Rodney Hood is averaging nearly 14 points per game next to Hayward on the wing. Though he has been injured frequently, George Hill has impacted the team more than anyone could have expected; the Jazz are 11-0 when he scores at least 20 points.
As great as this Jazz team is, the top of the Western Conference looks to be unbeatable. The Warriors are the odds-on favorite to win the 2017 NBA Championship. The Spurs are known as Golden State’s biggest competition, with All-Star Kawhi Leonard becoming one of the league’s best players. The Rockets have shown the ability to be an infallible offensive team whose best defense is more offense.
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The Jazz are currently fourth in the West, and they could optimistically end up anywhere as high as the second seed. But, under all current pretenses, they are an extremely talented roster that is not expected to get past the second round. What would it take for them to take another step?
The Atlanta Hawks are in a relatively similar place as the Jazz, A good, possibly great team that is not likely to get to the third round of the playoffs without a miracle, or a move. The Atlanta Hawks are different, though, as they have already become sellers once this season.
Kyle Korver being traded seemed to be a sign of the Hawks quitting, though he has actually been the worst player on the team, according to every single advanced stat. Atlanta’s front office showed to be ready to trade any series of players, without a necessary plan. After the deal, reports were that multiple Hawks, including Paul Millsap and Tim Hardaway Jr., were on the trade block. The organization came out and assured fans that no deals would occur, but this is unreasonable.
Both teams are contenders; the Jazz could look to be buyers at the trade deadline, while the Hawks may be an undercover “sell” team. Even then, is there a deal that improves both teams, while keeping them contenders going into the playoffs?
Millsap’s departure from the Hawks would cause a subliminal shift in the NBA. Adding arguably the most well-rounded power forward in the entire league to one of the most well-rounded rosters would make likely make the Jazz the second or third-best team in the stacked Western Conference. A starting lineup consisting of Hayward, Gobert, Hill, Hood, and Millsap is likely only second to the Warriors in all-around ability and versatility.
Mike Scott’s Hawk exit would mean virtually nothing, as his 10.8 minutes per game in 17 games shows. Regarding his trade stock, just last season he averaged 6.2 points and 2.8 rebounds in 40 games for the Hawks. Scott is a spark plug on offense, as he has shown time and time again. Example #1:
Even with all of this, Kris Humphries has taken basically all of Scott’s minutes since he was picked up in the middle of the 2016 season. He can still be an effective NBA player in the right system, which former Hawk assistant coach Quin Snyder would understand.
Favors is seven years younger than Millsap and will give the Hawks a reliable building block for the future. While his game isn’t as refined as Millsap’s, he is extremely talented in his own right. Last season, Favors’ PER, or Player Efficiency Rating, was 21.6, compared to Millsap’s 21.3. In fact, over the past two seasons, Millsap and Favors’ per-36 stats are similar; Millsap has averaged 18.6 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2 blocks on 47/34/76 shooting, while Favors has averaged 18.6 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.8 blocks on 52/10/69 shooting. Favors is not known for being much of a shooter, more of being a player that uses his body to post up and score points in more of a “conventional” big man’s way.
This season, Favors has been restricted by injuries, playing in only 37 of Utah’s 54 games. If he could revert back to his former self, he could potentially be a staple for his hometown Hawks for years to come.
Joe Johnson’s return to Atlanta, while mostly in the deal to match salaries, would be to do one thing: score. Since his departure from the Nets last February, he has averaged 9.9 points per game in 78 games, starting in only 32 of them. He also elevated his play during the 2016 playoffs, where he averaged nearly 13 per game as the third scoring option for the Miami Heat. His ability to play shooting guard, small forward, and power forward would give the Hawks yet another offensive weapon.
Lyles’ placement in this trade may be a stretch, as he has played most of the Jazz’s minutes at the power forward position this season. The third-year big out of Kentucky looks to be the backup plan at the fpur if Favors does not continue to improve. But, in getting Millsap, the Jazz would have a power forward in place for the near future, giving them enough time to find his eventual replacement.
In conclusion, this trade would be the rare win-win deal for both teams. The Hawks would be given two forwards of the future, while the Jazz would gain the piece that puts them over the top of every team in the Western Conference, other than the Golden State Warriors.
Would this trade help of hurt the Hawks in the short term? In the long term? Would the Jazz accept the deal? Would the Hawks even accept? Which team would come out as the winner in the proposed deal? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.