Paul Millsap won’t leave the Atlanta Hawks hanging. He has a player option for next season and, as expected, will decline it to enter free agency.
The 32-year-old made that much clear, for the most part, during his end-of-season presser, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Chris Vivlamore:
The Hawks, for their part, don’t have much to worry about. Or so it seems.
They made their intention to keep him clear when resisting the temptation to move him at the trade deadline. And while he has the final say in where he plays next season, he doesn’t sound like someone itching to leave, per Vivlamore:
“I don’t know,” Millsap said when asked what would prevent him from re-signing with the Hawks. “It’s something me and my agent and my family have to sit down and talk about. The decisions I make with my career is not just about me. It doesn’t affect just me. I’ll talk to my family and see what happens.
“But knowing these guys, knowing the organization, I know they want to head in the right direction. They want to get the best available. They want the franchise to win. I believe that without even having a meeting with them. I know the direction they want to go.”
Atlanta has to decide if it’s willing to throw max or near-max money at a 32-year-old. Millsap might be willing to give some sort of an incumbent discount, but there will be teams peddling short-term, or even long-term, maxes on the open market. And many of those teams—looking at you, Denver Nuggets—are better positioned to compete not only next season, but beyond.
With Dwight Howard on the books and a ton of money invested in Dennis Schroder and Kent Bazemore, it would be surprising to see the Hawks balk at paying Millsap. Plus, again, they didn’t trade him. That speaks volumes. They lost one top-25 player last summer for nothing, in Al Horford. They can’t afford to let the same thing happen again.
If Millsap isn’t Atlanta next season, then, it’ll be due to his own desire to play elsewhere, to try something different. Unless they trigger a full-scale teardown with two or three salary dumps, the Hawks aren’t in a position to do anything other than let Millsap dictate the terms of what happens next.