Despite the growing pressure on Tim Connelly and Arturas Karnisovas to make a move, they stayed patient in their pursuit of Paul Millsap and it paid off.
The Denver Nuggets faced a bit of a crossroads this offseason. They were well positioned to simply remain patient and groom their talented young core as they waited for the Golden State – Cleveland wars to reach their end. But the fan base has been worn down by years of mediocrity and failure to obtain premier talent. President of basketball operations Tim Connelly, and new general manager Arturas Karnisovas, were feeling the pressure to make a big move.
They finally landed a star through free agency, agreeing to terms with Paul Millsap on a three year, $90 Million deal with a reported team option on the final year. This is an exceptional deal, and one that can be attributed to a favorable market and some presumed patience from the Denver front office.
Millsap was always a top target for this team, and at one point it was believed that signing him would require a four year max-deal worth a lot of money.
Here's the breakdown –
Year 1: $34,650,000
Year 2: $36,382,500
Year 3: $38,115,000
Year 4: $39,847,500
— Harrison Wind (@HarrisonWind) June 27, 2017
This fourth year would have been particularly brutal, as Millsap would have been 36 year’s old in the final year. And obviously, Denver will want to have financial flexibility down the line, as Nikola Jokic is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2019.
Denver might have offered Millsap that contract, but if they did, it’s hard to believe he wouldn’t have signed it right away. It appears as though they chose to stay patient, as with each passing day the market for Millsap began to look more dry.
The Atlanta Hawks made it clear that they were ready to rebuild, and in-fact, they never even made Millsap an offer.
Paul Millsap tells the AJC the Hawks never offered him a contract. Story soon.
— Chris Vivlamore (@CVivlamoreAJC) July 3, 2017
The Phoenix Suns were also tabbed as frontrunners to land Millsap, along the the Minnesota Timberwolves. But Woj reported that the Suns had decided to commit to a rebuild, and were pulling out of the Millsap race.
Sources: Suns out on Millsap pursuit, turning to use cap space to absorb $ dumps paired w/ assets. Open to moving vets, going all-in young.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 1, 2017
That left only the Timberwolves, and they seemed like a legitimate threat to acquire the 6’8” forward. The Wolves had already acquired Jimmy Butler, and after signing Jeff Teague, they were a talented power forward away from a terrifying starting five. Millsap would have been a great fit. But the Wolves opted to sign Taj Gibson instead, leaving the Nuggets as the lone bidder for Millsap’s services.
Free agent Taj Gibson has agreed to a two-year, $28M deal with Minnesota, league sources tell The Vertical.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 2, 2017
If the Nuggets game plan truly was to wait it out with the belief that the market would dry, then they deserve a lengthy round of applause. To land Millsap for only three years and less than $100 Million is huge. But to manage a team option on the third year is almost too good to be true.
Again, barring any prior extensions, Jokic is set to hit the market in 2019, and Denver now has the ability to opt out of the Millsap contract if that becomes necessary.
In the meantime, this is the perfect pairing alongside Nikola in Denver’s frontcourt. The West may be as competitive as ever, but this organization has shown their young core that they’re capable of attracting talent and they’re invested in competing sooner rather than later. That could pay dividends, and ultimately it’s a low risk move thanks to the structure of the contract.
Denver isn’t ready to compete in the West right away, but they needed to improve if they planned on making the playoffs. Every team in Denver’s division got better, and the West has evolved from competitive to a straight up bloodbath. The Millsap move was neccessary.
Perhaps Denver knew the market would dry up. Perhaps they just got lucky. Either way they got their man, and they got him on a no-risk deal. A job well done by a front office in Denver that’s taken its fair share of criticism.