This is the last guaranteed year of Paul Millsap’s contract.
There is a team option for next season which most speculate Denver will decline. The prevailing thought seems to be that he will have served the short-term purpose that brought him to the Nuggets and that Trey Lyles, Jarred Vanderbilt and possibly Tyler Lydon will be in need of Millsap’s minutes.
It may benefit us all to pump the brakes on that determination considering Millsap’s performance against the Clippers. He scored just four points but took only four shots. The best being a 18-foot jumper (remember mid-range shooters?) midway through the quarter. It’s everywhere else that Millsap stood out. Four rebounds, a steal, three blocks and two assists in just 12 minutes of play.
This is what we had started to see from Millsap before last-season’s wrist injury and what we’ve seen too little of to feel that the big man is an integral part of the Nuggets push toward Western Conference legitimacy.
Like we mentioned for the second team above, Torrey Craig is that glue that keeps the team viable on the defensive end. Millsap is the glue guy for the starters. Not just as a defensive stalwart but as an anchor to the NBA style of play (like that mid-range shot) that allows the Core + Barton to play their game. A reliable post player that can stretch is invaluable to Michael Malone. His team is still young and brash, Millsap is the security blanket Denver can turn to.
That makes Millsap integral to Denver’s success and it’s not out-of-line that his presence will be needed beyond this season. The combination of Lyles and Vanderbilt could produce for the Nuggets what Millsap brings individually. He is stability for the mercurial starting group in a way that none of Denver’s young power forwards are ready to be. Even into next season, with Michael Porter Jr. projected into the starting small forward spot, Millsap’s strong presence will be necessary. Besides, Lyles needs to remain a pillar on the stacked second-team.
Thinking of Millsap as central to the starting five’s success, it’s worth asking the question: