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By virtue of signing a two-year, $19 million contract with the Hawks, Millsap is not eligible for an extension. In order to stay with the Hawks long-term, he’s going to have to become an unrestricted free agent first. And, because he’s only been with the team for two years, they only have his early Bird rights, meaning he’s only eligible for a four-year extension. With his full Bird rights, the Hawks would have had an advantage over the competition for his services by being able to offer a fifth year.
We saw Millsap at his best last year, putting up 17.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists as he led the Al Horford-less Hawks to the playoffs. Owed just $9.5 million this year, he has one of the more valuable contracts in the league, especially considering that he’s expiring.
The Hawks have played the free agent game in recent years and weren’t able to strike gold on the market, outside of Millsap of course. However, they’ve been trying to move Horford over to power forward for years, something they cannot do with Millsap manning the position. If the two have a lot of success together this year, though, it may be time to scrap that idea and lock up Millsap long-term. They’ll have the cap room to do so, and most importantly, already know Millsap is willing to play there.
By the time free agency rolls around, the negative stigma surrounding GM Danny Ferry will likely be gone and new ownership will be in place. That should make them slightly more attractive as a destination for high level free agents, but Millsap was the best they were able to get in a stacked market two summers ago, and they’d be foolish to let him walk in hopes of getting better. While there may be sexier names on the market, Millsap produces at a steady, undeniable rate that the Hawks would have a hard time replacing if he were to walk.
Cousins’ comments help shed some light on why the Sacramento Kings were willing to sign-and-trade Isaiah Thomas after his career-year. As great as his production was, the way that Thomas was running the point guard position didn’t necessarily bode well for the long-term success of the Kings. In order for them to get to the next level, the front office felt like they needed a less ball-dominant point guard, someone who was going to help facilitate things through Cousins and Rudy Gay.
Darren Collison has had his struggles as a starting point guard, but the Kings know two important things about him: He’s not going to shoot in excess and he’s going to play tough defense night in and night out. Those qualities were more important to them than Thomas’ individual scoring ability, plus the Kings also have Ramon Sessions and second-year guard Ray McCallum to help replace Thomas’ production by committee; it’s not just on Collison’s shoulders.
This is one of those things that is probably going to solve itself over the course of preseason, however, it seems like Thompson is the right man for the job. Even if Varejao were to win the position and end up the opening night starter, Thompson is more likely to see the majority of the work load because of his youth and history of good health, something Varejao does not have.
Varejao has looked like an All-Star caliber center when healthy over the past couple of years, but last year’s 65 game campaign was the first time in three years that he played more than 32 games. So, the Cavaliers are wisely going to be careful with the 32 year old in order to try to keep him healthy and ready to go for the postseason, when they’ll need him in the most. In the meantime, it makes more sense for Thompson to carry the load as he needs the experience and should benefit greatly from the confidence that comes with seeing extended action for what looks to be one of the league’s best teams heading into the season.
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