The Utah Jazz's decision to take on the contracts of Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins from the Golden State Warriors in addition to draft picks cost them Paul Millsap. As a result, Millsap quickly turned around and signed a two-year, $19 million deal with the Atlanta Hawks, who lost out on Dwight Howard and needed to find someone to take some of the cap space earmarked for him.
I'm not quite sure of Atlanta's larger master plan, but securing Millsap for this price was a nice coup for Danny Ferry. Millsap is not quite as dynamic as Josh Smith, but getting him him to agree to a deal for $9.5 million annually for two years is significantly better value than keeping Smith for $14 million per season for four years.
In a lot of ways, Millsap is the anti-Smith. Smith can be a terror on plays called for him, but often floats on the perimeter on plays called for others. Millsap, on the other hand, has limited isolation skills, but knows his limitations, won't take bad shots and has become a really good cutter. The tradeoff can be easily viewed in their respective true shooting percentages. Smith used 26.7 percent of Atlanta's possessions, a very high number, but posted a 50.1 true shooting percentage, a very low number for a power forward. Millsap, on the other hand, used only 22.4 percent of Utah's possessions, an average number, but posted a true shooting percentage of 55.
Which is better? It depends on the situation, but Millsap can bring a lot of different offensive skills to the table that could work extremely well with the passing ability of Al Horford. The famous 4-5 pick and roll is dead, but other hi-lo action certainly is possible. Millsap is also very good at sneaking around the baseline, making him a useful weakside player on high pick and roll action. He won't go into the post and make beautiful diagonal passes to shooters like Smith could, but he is also a better and more selective jump-shooter that can be positioned in more places on the court.
Defensively, Atlanta will certainly lose something with the tradeoff. Smith, when engaged, is one of the most versatile stoppers in the league, capable of playing both post players and wings. The only time that Paul George really struggled in the playoffs was when Smith was guarding him in the first round. Millsap, meanwhile, has slow feet and gives up size to some bigger players. He's not actively hurting his team defensively, but he's not helping it a ton either. The Hawks are probably hoping he'll fare better outside of Utah's overly-simplistic pick and roll defensive schemes, which would be a reasonable expectation.
Is Millsap as good as Smith? Probably not. But he's also not that much worse and will cost Danny Ferry significantly less money. Because of that, this is a major win for the Hawks, given that they have to spend on somebody to eventually reach the salary floor. This was the signing that the Bobcats should have made instead of going for Al Jefferson, who is only effective in certain settings and gives back a lot defensively. Millsap is not as good of a scorer, but he's much more cerebral.