Paul Millsap was the Denver Nuggets’ uniquely shaped missing piece, so they handed him a $90 million contract for three years in free agency.
Denver’s young roster almost snuck into the playoffs a season ago, mostly on the back of breakout center Nikola Jokic. Once the big Serb was handed the full-time starting job 23 games into the season, the NBA sophomore posted some bonkers numbers—19.2 points per game on 58.7 percent shooting (34.2 from three), 10.9 rebounds, and 5.8 assists. He just turned 22.
Free agent Paul Millsap has agreed to a three-year, $90M with the Denver Nuggets, league sources tell The Vertical.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 3, 2017
After an 8-14 start to the season, Denver went 32-28 the rest of the way to fall one game shy of the No. 8 seed out West.
They would have reached the postseason easily if they could stop anyone from scoring; the Nuggets had the second-worst Defensive Rating among NBA teams last season, behind only the lowly Los Angeles Lakers.
That’s where Millsap comes in.
For as masterful as Jokic is as a scorer and as a passer, his limited speed and athleticism, plus his residency at the center position, means he requires a rare-ish fit as his power forward—an elite defender who can also stretch the floor.
While Millsap isn’t an elite shooter (32.8 percent from deep in his career), he improved that element of his game with the Atlanta Hawks, who are about to enter a rebuild after losing Millsap and Al Horford in consecutive offseasons. He’s also a smart and dogged defender, and by keeping the deal short at three years, Denver won’t be paying for him long after he loses the athleticism to make him such an impactful two-way player.
With the 2015-16 All-Defensive second teamer in the fold to complement Jokic in the Denver frontcourt, and with an impressive young back court in scoring point guard Jamal Murray and two-way shooting guard Gary Harris, the Nuggets will be a real force in the 2017-18 Western Conference.