The Dallas Mavericks will enter next season with a new general manager and a new coach. They could also use some fresh faces at the end of the bench. Not every addition to the roster has to be the type that headlines ESPN and dominates NBA Twitter for a day. Sometimes bolstering the end of the bench can pay dividends throughout a long season.
That’s why the Mavericks should give serious consideration to Paul Millsap. He’s nearing the end of a long career, but he can still contribute to a playoff contender like Dallas. It just might not always be on the court.
The 6’7, 257 pound power forward just finished his 15th season in the NBA. Millsap is coming off a one-year, $10 million contract with the Denver Nuggets at age 36. He put up per game averages of nine points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists. Millsap shot 34% on 3-pointers, which is exactly his career average. He averaged only 20 minutes per game last year, the lowest since his sophomore season with the Utah Jazz.
If the Mavericks bring Millsap aboard, one of the biggest reasons will be his veteran leadership. Millsap is a former four-time All-Star, and has only missed the playoffs three times in his 15-year career. He’s made the conference finals three times, and really the only playoff situation Millsap hasn’t seen is the NBA Finals.
Millsap has had some years where he’s shot well above average from deep. It’s possible he could contribute by stretching the floor for the bench unit. He shot 43% on 2.4 3-point attempts per game in 2019-20, and 36% on a similar number of attempts in 2018-19, so it’s possible last season was a bit of a slump.
More importantly, Millsap would bring a grit that the Mavericks were lacking often last year. Whatever his stats may be, Millsap plays hard every minute he’s on the court, and an example like that is needed for every team in the league. Even in limited minutes, Millsap would help with his voice on the bench and extended experience.
Simply put, Millsap doesn’t do any one thing extremely well. He’s never been a big scorer, never averaging more than 18 points per game in a season. He’s never averaged double digit rebounds. As mentioned above, he shoots just above league average for his career. Millsap plays good defense, averaging a block and a steal per game over 15 seasons, but no one would call him an elite defender. He’s made one All-Defense team, back in 2015-16.
When you factor in his age, there’s plenty to be concerned about. No one would have blamed you for thinking Millsap was washed three years ago, much less this summer. He was down in every significant stat last year, and his shooting fell off a cliff in the playoffs. Millsap only hit 28% of his shots from behind the arc.
Fit with the Mavericks
Millsap really only makes sense at a veteran minimum contract. Based on his stats from the previous season, the Mavericks can’t offer him anything more. If he were to bounce back and put up one more quality season at that price, it’d be a huge bonus for Dallas. But if they sign him to something close to the $10 million he made for Denver last year, it’d be a disaster.
What makes most sense is bringing Millsap on as a minimum contract to provide leadership from the bench and occasionally step onto the floor if there’s a favorable matchup. It’s a role that’s overlooked often when talking about basketball, but important nonetheless.