Raptors: What Paul Millsap Could Bring to the Team

With speculation and rumours ruling the NBA offseason, the possibility of Paul Millsap being traded to the Toronto Raptors has come up. Here’s a look at how the 31-year-old power forward would fit in with the team.

Ah, the cycle begins anew. Welcome to NBA offseason, home of wild speculation and rampant rumours. One rumour — or thought of speculation — that has begun to circulate is that the Raptors are going to do everything in their power to make a trade for Paul Millsap.

They have wanted Millsap for a long time (unsurprisingly) and with the Hawks trading Jeff Teague away for only the 12th pick in the draft (a bottom end lottery pick) combined with the reality that Al Horford is a 30-year-old free agent that is looking to cash in on one last contract, it gives the Raptors an avenue to possibly pry Millsap loose.

Just in case you haven’t heard, Paul Millsap is an elite power forward and he has an uncanny ability to do everything well. At age 31 he’s actually peaking instead of declining, posting 17.1 points, 9 rebounds and 3.3 assists, which leads the Hawks in both rebounds and points.

Those numbers may not seem sexy but his 1.7 blocks and 1.7 steals per game definitely are. He’s the only person in the league to average at least both of those numbers at the same time. Millsap made the second team all-defense this year and that defensive presence would be more than welcome on the Raptors where coach Dwane Casey adheres to a defense first mantra.

Frankly, Millsap is a defensive beast. He’s a small forward inside a power forward’s body. He’s got heft to him by weighing 246 pounds, but he moves as though he’s 225.

Millsap holds his own against power forwards but is capable of guarding at least three positions for short periods of time in the center (in small ball lineups), power forward and small forward. If the Raptors are really thinking about shifting into a win now mentality Millsap is a player that can help slow LeBron James. Since LeBron’s shooting waxes and wanes, Millsap can sit back in isolated possessions, absorbing the contact and still contest the layup.

Since he weighs 246 pounds he can also handle LeBron in the post, making LeBron unable to consistently bully Raptors defenders in the post. He’s also capable of switching out on any guard in screen and roll situations and is more than capable of handling his own. His defensive instincts are phenomenal, many a time he can be unseen, stalking passing lanes which helps him create a lot of fastbreak buckets for himself and teammates in the open floor.

Millsap is undersized at his position (standing at 6-foot-8) , but he doesn’t try to over compensate for his lack of height with athleticism. He defense is fundamentally sound, he never draws fouls on pump fakes and goes straight up when contesting shots at the rim. He really makes the offense work for their points, there is no easy way to score on Paul Milsap, which is what makes him such a great defender. If you’re Dwane Casey you’re already salivating at the prospect of having this guy on the Raptors but his benefit doesn’t just end there.

Paul Millsap is a true modern power forward offensively. He can push the ball coast to coast whenever he grabs defensive boards, creating disorderly conduct on the opposing team. Most teams in the league don’t have a power forward that can do this, so teams aren’t really willing and capable to defend these (Draymond Green-esque) fastbreaks  effectively. With athletic wings like DeMar DeRozan running in transition and 3 point shooter sprinkled around them the Raptors fast break could be lethal.

In the half court Millsap gives you a bit of everything, he’s a great screener, on the Hawks he’s one of two players who is responsible for getting the amazing jumpshooter Kyle Korver open for 3’s. He also plays the two-man game very well, which is essential on any team but especially on the Raptors. He screens effectively but he’s also capable of popping out for his jump shot or just rolling to the rim for a layup.

When Millsap pops out the defense has to rotate to him not only because of his jumpshot but also because of his ability to put the ball on the deck. The Raptors have this issue where the only people who are really capable of handling the ball are the guards. If Lowry dishes the ball to the big on a pick and pop and they aren’t open enough it leads to an ugly sequence where the big will pump fake and then look for one of the guards so they can give it up.

With Millsap on the team, after receiving that ball he’s smart enough to make a snap decision on whether to shoot or drive. He’s more than capable to make the jumpshot so he can fake his defender out of their shoes with a pump fake and drive to the rim. The respect that opposing defenses will have to give Millsap would also lead to clear paths to the rim for the Raptors all-star backcourt, the big man wont be able to completely commit to the guards leaving open lanes or it would force a switch with a small guarding Millsap.

Apr 28, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder (99) shoots the ball against Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) and center Al Horford (15) during the first half in game six of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Millsap is undersized defensively but since he can still be a forcewhen  he gets matched up with big man on the offensive end. If the pick and roll isn’t working Millsap’s post game is potent. He has gorgeous face up possessions where he has a serious speed advantage over his larger defenders.

Equipped with one dribble step backs, pump fake drives and a meticulous spin move bigs have an astonishingly hard time guarding Millsap. If a guard is switched onto him Millsap is capable of backing them down and punishing the defender’s size in the post. These post touches would give the Raptors another path to scoring when they go through dry spells like they did in the playoffs this year. That post/face up threat will always be a sore spot for opposing defenses.

Beyond his two-man game, and pick-and-pops, Millsap can be a spot up shooter if needed. His stroke is average speed for a big man, but he shoots at a career average of 33 percent, while being the primary focus of the Hawks offense.

In the Raptors offense he would likely be the second option and would have slashing guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan taking heat off of him in the half court, which would lead to him having the most open three point shots of his career, so expect that percentage to climb.

On the court the Raptors almost make too much sense with Paul Millsap in the lineup. He’s truly a beautiful fit for the team. The hard part is going to be jarring him loose from the Hawks who are going to looking for young players and prospects.

If Ujiri can orchestrate a trade that brings Millsap to the Raptors without too much of a sacrifice in depth, be prepared to witness a Raptors team that will be more than capable of putting LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in adverse situations.