The Atlanta Hawks, after much hemming and hawing for the last six months, have finally committed to a rebuild, sending center Dwight Howard to the Charlotte Hornets in a cost-cutting move. They received a package in return that included Miles Plumlee (who is under contract for an extra year beyond Howard’s deal but at far less money) and some other random scraps for a player that used to be considered a centerpiece and has since been a detriment to every team he’s been on. More interestingly for Denver fans though, it also opened up the rest of Atlanta’s roster for possible movement.

One player not under contract with the Hawks at the moment is Paul Millsap. The Denver Nuggets engaged in trade talks last summer for Millsap, only to be shut out once Al Horford signed with Boston. They inquired at the trade deadline last year as well. Millsap reportedly has interest from several teams but after the Howard news broke, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst had this to say about the rumors swirling around Millsap in an ESPN video interview:

“There are three or four teams out there that are willing to give Paul Millsap a max-level contract, and sources have told me that the Hawks have already begun getting some feelers on Paul Millsap sign-and-trades. Teams like the Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, Denver Nuggets [are] interested in Paul Millsap, and this is so interesting Lisa because at midseason Paul Millsap was put on the trade block and there was a revolt in the locker room and Mike Budenholzer, the team president pushed back against it. They took him off the trade block and then here we are a few months later – they're probably going to lose Paul Millsap anyway and Mike Budenholzer is no longer in charge of the team.” 

We’ve written about Millsap as both a trade piece before the deadline and as a free agent this summer. He’s definitely on everyone’s radar in the Mile High City. Denver’s problem in a sign-and-trade is that they do not have a lot of high-priced contracts to match up with a potential max contract for Millsap that would start at around 35 million dollars a season and go up. I’m not sure why he would agree to a sign-and-trade with any of those listed teams, to be honest – he gets nothing out of it and both Phoenix and Denver have the cap space to sign him outright. Why weaken the team that could sign him to a huge deal anyway?

The only benefit he would derive from a sign-and-trade would be a potential 5th year – which suitors would have to be desperate to throw on for a player who will turn 33 before the 2018 All Star Game. His escalator between years would also be higher if he agrees to that sort of trade, but watching Dwight Howard get bounced between 5 teams over the last 4 years might make Millsap want a more stable, winning environment to wind his career down in rather than quibbling over escalators and winding up in a terminal rebuild like Sacramento (sorry Kings fans – you’re still the best).

The only way it makes sense to me is if Millsap is getting paid AND bringing a teammate along to his new digs. Maybe someone should heat up the ESPN Trade Machine and see who might come along with Millsap in a package deal, but for now just know that Denver has been a bridesmaid for Millsap for the last 12 months without ever being the bride. I don’t know if that will change – or even if it should, based on Millsap’s age and expected price – but the Nuggets are still listed as a suitor.

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