The Runner Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves Should Pursue Paul Millsap

The Wolves need veteran players who can establish a culture and contribute straight away, one player who can do this is Atlanta Hawks Forward Paul Millsap

Coach Tom Thibodeau is entering his second and perhaps most important season as head coach and president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves. After a disappointing season where the Wolves only increased their win total by two and failed to show expected defensive improvement, they’ll need to sign players who know how to win. Coach Thibodeau stayed pat during the previous offseason but needs to make a big splash this offseason to ensure the Wolves are a playoff team.  Put simply, the Wolves’ weakest position is at power forward, where Gorgui Dieng is the current starter, and while he is a hard worker, he does not have the requisite skills to be a game-changer at the position. One player the Wolves need to aggressively pursue is Paul Millsap.

Why should the Wolves sign Millsap?

Paul Millsap is an 11-year veteran who has spent the past four years with the Atlanta Hawks and each of those years he has been an All-Star. For the 2016-17 season, Millsap averaged 18 points, 4 assists, and 8 rebounds a game, but his most valuable asset is his defensive presence. The Wolves finished with the fourth worst defensive rating in the NBA and rest assured coach Thibodeau is extremely unhappy with this. Millsap ranked 14th in ESPN defensive real plus-minus which means that when he is on the court, Millsap helps the Hawks’ defense and when he leaves the court the defense suffers. Millsap is not a flashy defender and you will be hard pressed to find a defensive highlight reel but what Millsap does best is fundamentals. Millsap is always at the right place when you need him, his footwork is sound and he is strong enough in the post to make it hard for opposing players to post him up.

If you combine his defensive prowess with his offensive game what you have is a well-rounded two-way player who knows how to win basketball games. An analysis shows that of the top 14 players in defensive real plus-minus, only have five have a positive offensive real plus-minus as well. This list includes Millsap alongside other elite names like Draymond Green and Anthony Davis. Millsap is readily able to post up big men and finish with a soft touch or shoot a fade away jumper with impressive results, as Millsap had career highs in points per game and free-throw percentage.

Perhaps the most important attribute he can bring to the Wolves is his veteran experience and knowledge on how to win in the NBA. The Wolves started the season tied for the eighth youngest roster and badly need veteran players to inject some experience into the roster. It’s not a coincidence that the top five oldest teams are all perennial championship contenders as experience knows how to win tight games. Millsap can help to mentor Karl-Anthony Towns and help him achieve his full perennial as a constant All-NBA first team center.

Potential question marks with Signing Millsap

Millsap will demand a five-year max contract this summer from any suitors and due to the changes in the new collective bargaining agreement, he can command up to 35% of the salary cap. This will give Millsap an eye-watering five-year, $207 million contract but the Wolves can comfortably afford this. Millsap’s contract will have good value during years 1-3 but the latter years could be an albatross on the Wolves’ payroll. In years 4-5 (2020-21), Millsap will be earning $44 million and a staggering $47 million. By then Millsap will be 36 years of age and his production will have diminished considerably. A 36-year-old diminished player earning $47 million is hard for any front office to swallow but if they feel Millsap can help in a huge way then they should sign him.

Another question mark is his place on the team and whether he fits the offensive game plan the Minnesota Timberwolves want to execute. Millsap had his worst three-point shooting season in five years as he shot 31% from three, which is well below the average of 36% for the league. His inability to hit threes will shrink the court as defenders can sag off him and dare him to beat them by jump shots. This does not help a team that ranked in the bottom ten in average three-point percentage.

Final decision; Should the Wolves sign Paul Millsap?

Whilst the financial ramifications for signing Millsap especially in the last two years is concerning the experience and ability to win now mentality that Millsap will bring is worth the financial pain. Millsap is a player coach Thibs will love to have on the roster as he is a hard-nosed two-way player who has a track record of winning. The Wolves need to sign him and put the wider league on notice that the Wolves are ready to hunt.

Mustafa Noor

Mustafa Noor

Writer at Runner sports
London based writer covering the Minnesota Timberwolves for the runner sports. Mustafa is well aware that the Timberwolves have not made the playoffs for 13 straight years
Mustafa Noor
  • Richard Petzoldt

    Now that the Wolves have Jimmy Butler and limited cap space does that remove Milsap from the radar?