And Just Like That: A Storm

From Jason Quick of The Oregonian...

After a series of trades fell through this week, the Trail Blazers have settled on their next target: Utah power forward Paul Millsap.

Although Millsap is a restricted free agent, meaning the Jazz can match any offer, the Blazers are preparing what one source called a "toxic" offer designed to exterminate interest from other teams.

...

The Blazers figure to exhaust nearly all of their cap space to lock up Millsap. 

Despite being a much better player, Millsap runs into the same general problems as Bass, discussed below: are there enough minutes and is he a transformational player?

The fundamental questions: Is this the guy you sink years worth of salary cap flexibility into and is he the piece you believe puts you over the top?  Is he a suitable consolation prize after missing out on Turkoglu? Tough questions.

Millsap is a banger, of course, and would be a very quality addition. KP would get double bonus points for taking a quality piece from a division rival. 

Kevin Pelton has written in support of Millsap's game recently but hits the money analysis in the underlined portion...

In terms of their potential to contribute over the next five seasons, Paul Millsap and David Lee are probably the two best free agents on the market. Both players were on the fringe of the All-Star discussion this year (you'll remember I gave Millsap a spot on my squad). Millsap in particular is young enough to still have room for growth, while Lee is just entering what should be a productive prime.

Alas, because both players are restricted free agents and their current employers are expected to match any offers, Lee and Millsap have been relegated to the back burner so far during free agency. Portland looks like the only team left that could make a serious run at either player, and with LaMarcus Aldridge at power forward and the duo of Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla in the middle, barring an unlikely trade it will be difficult for the Blazers to carve out enough playing time to justify paying big money to part of a four-man frontcourt rotation. That could limit Lee and Millsap to either hammering out a long-term deal to stick around with their current teams or taking the qualifying offer and trying again next year. That leverage is limited by the fact that both qualifying offers, especially Millsap's, are way below market value.

And before you get too excited, here's a recent take from Tim Buckley of the Deseret News.

As Carlos Boozer trade rumors continued to swirl Wednesday, Jazz restricted free agent Paul Millsap negotiated the first full day of the NBA's summer free-agency shopping market.

Much of the interest in Millsap is known to have come from Oklahoma City, which has enough team payroll salary cap space to sign Utah's backup power forward to an offer sheet.

For now, however, caution seems to be the name of the game.

"I think that in this economy, a lot of teams are second-guessing themselves and doing their research to make sure they're making the wise decision," said DeAngelo Simmons, Millsap's uncle and representative.

Even if Oklahoma City and Millsap agreed to terms, the Thunder would face likely competition from the Jazz - who've vowed to match any offer sheet the 2006 second-round draft choice signs with another team.

Rumors have circled that Utah might try to trade recently-signed Carlos Boozer so as to prepare themselves to keep Millsap.

Talks continue between the Pistons and Jazz about a Carlos Boozer-Rip Hamilton trade. Hamilton didn't fit with Allen Iverson this season, and he won't fit with newly acquired Ben Gordon. In fact, Gordon has become Iverson. He has no conscience when taking shots.    

I'd rather have Paul Millsap than Hedo Turkoglu, especially come playoff time. Make no mistake: this would be a coup for Kevin Pritchard.

Given the seven day window that Utah has to match an offer from Portland (that hasn't been made yet), we're a long way from home.  For now, at least we've got something to talk about.

-- Ben (benjamin.golliver@gmail.com)

Update:

Thanks to the roybot in the comments, here's cause for serious optimism from the Blazers side.

Sounds like KP's potential offer was not anticipated by the Jazz as earlier today, Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune wrote...

Although Paul Millsap's price tag originally was set by his agent at $10 million a season, the Jazz's chances of re-signing the restricted free-agent forward for the midlevel exception of $5.854 million (and possibly even less) appear to be growing.

...

"The Jazz haven't given us a number at all, and we're not trying to come to an agreement on anything because we haven't come to a number," said Simmons, who was speaking out to deny rumors that the Jazz and Millsap were close to a deal.

...

The Jazz remain committed to matching whatever offer Millsap receives, with O'Connor saying, "Our position hasn't changed." Millsap averaged 16.0 points and 10.3 rebounds in starting 38 games last season with Carlos Boozer injured.

Millsap could opt to sign the one-year $1.03 million qualifying offer the Jazz tendered him last month and return to the market as an unrestricted free agent next summer. The Jazz plan to make Millsap a fair offer, but will not overpay out of loyalty.  

Also, earlier this summer, Chad Ford of ESPN ranked Millsap his #4 free agent (Hedo was #2, haha) and wrote...

With Carlos Boozer out for most of last season, Millsap proved he has the potential to be an All-Star power forward -- he is unstoppable on the boards and can put the ball in the basket. Detroit, Memphis and Oklahoma City are all potentially interested, though the Jazz will try to bring him back. But with Boozer not opting out, there's a small chance the Jazz won't be able to match another team's offer to Millsap, especially if it's a huge offer of $10 million-plus per year.

Are the Utah papers pushing Millsap out the door?  Brack Rock of the Deseret News wrote on the 4th of July...

Paul Millsap is entertaining offers this week, and if he gets what he wants, the end result will be a salary that starts at $10 million. Per year, not per eon. Considering he made about $800,000 this year, that would be a 1,100 or 1,200 percent raise.

I'm all in favor of the Jazz retaining Millsap and giving him a generous bump in income. They can do that by matching any offer another team makes. The hazardous part is if someone offers him cuckoo money, say, $12 million or $14 million a year, and the Jazz buckle under the fear of having him return to haunt them. Then they're committed to a multiyear deal, at a huge price.

...

There could be worse things than losing Millsap to free agency.

Signing him to an overpriced, never-ending contract, for example.

The Jazz need look no further than their own history to remember times when, in the heat of the moment, they paid too much for a very good player. Remember Andrei Kirilenko?

Also, FYI, exclusive to Blazersedge because he loves you that much, here are Millsap's comparables from the esteemed Kevin Pelton.

                      Sim        Season        Team
Reggie King                97.5        1981        kck
Nenê Hilario                97.3        2007        den
Lonnie Shelton            97.2        1980        sea
Carlos Boozer             97.0        2006        uta
Jeff Ruland                  96.8        1983        was
Drew Gooden              96.3        2006        cle
Amare Stoudemire       96.2        2007        pho
Buck Williams             95.9        1984        njn
Cliff Levingston             95.9        1985        atl
LaSalle Thompson        95.8        1985        kck

Update (9:42PM): More from Jason Quick of The OregonianHe writes...

it appears Pritchard is preparing for perhaps his last big pitch of the summer. Sources say the Blazers are putting together what they consider a "toxic" offer to Utah's Paul Millsap
...

If the Millsap plan doesn't go through, the Blazers will go after free agent Brandon Bass, a young power forward who played for Dallas last season. 
...
Nothing, absolutely nothing, has gone right for the Blazers this summer. 

On Wednesday morning, Pritchard sounded weary and defeated, and refused to comment on his summer shortcomings. 

Update (10:12PM): From Ric Bucher on twitter...

On Millsap/PDX: It would have to be an offer sheet, which hasn't happened. Also rumored they offered BBass same. Neither checks out so far.    

 

Update (12:05AM): Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune updated his post to read...

The Portland Trail Blazers are preparing an offer to restricted free agent forward Paul Millsap that will test the Jazz's resolve to match, according to a report Wednesday night on The Oregonian 's Web site.

...
The Jazz have committed to match whatever offer Millsap receives, but doing so could push their payroll past $80 million, leaving them to incur $10 million or more in the NBA's dollar-for-dollar luxury-tax penalties.

...

Should they not match, however, the Jazz would run the risk of watching Millsap leave for the Northwest Division rival Blazers, followed by Carlos Boozer's potential departure next summer as a free agent.

...

In fact, The Oregonian cited a source's description of Portland's expected offer as being "toxic." The Blazers could do everything from front-load the contract in the first two years to include a signing bonus that the Jazz would have to match.    

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