It was a barrage.
Soft floater in the lane. Good. Jab right, drive left. Bucket. Back down, off glass. Clinical. From downtown. Stop it.
How exactly do you stop someone with such a vast arsenal, with so many weapons that taking one away does virtually nothing to help your cause?
It was a question that Brad Stevens was forced to confront in Game 4 of the Celtics’ first-round playoff series against the Hawks, when Paul Millsap dropped a casual 45 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 blocks and 2 steals.
The resourceful power forward certainly had it going that night. But the stuff on display – the variety of moves, the effectiveness on both ends on the floor—was nothing new. That’s been Paul Millsap for years now. A workhorse. A stalwart. A silent assassin.
Millsap had arguably the best season of his 10-year career in 2015-16, averaging 17.1 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.7 blocks, shooting 47 percent from the field. He was named an All-Star for the third consecutive time, confirming what we all should have already known: Paul is one of the best big men in the L.
As alluded to above, Millsap’s greatness lies in his versatility. On offense, he can play the block, step out and work the mid-range, and has been expanding his game to the three-point line (attempted 2.9 per contest last season).
On defense, he is a much better rim protector than advertised, and has the quick hands to create turnovers. In 2015-16, he ranked fifth in the NBA in total blocks, fourth in defensive rating, first in defensive win shares, third in defensive box plus minus, and was named to the All-Defensive Second-Team. Not bad.
You combine that with a three-time Defensive Player of the Year in Dwight Howard, and it might be hard to get yours in Atlanta.
It’ll be interesting to observe how this new frontcourt duo meshes. One can see how the pair would work well together. They appear to supplement each other on the defensive end: Dwight being the more athletic, inside presence and Paul being the all-around guy.
You can envision Millsap’s passing ability coming into play. He operated nicely with Horford, but the former Hawk isn’t exactly the “lob it up to Mars” type player that Howard is.
Dwight will certainly demand attention on the low post, which should open some things up for Millsap. If he can knock down that long ball with better efficiency, the Hawks might just make noise come April.
A workhorse. A stalwart. A silent assassin. He’s been getting the job done for years now. If you haven’t been paying attention to Millsap, it’s time to.
So, how exactly do you stop someone with such a vast arsenal, with so many weapons that taking one away does virtually nothing to help your cause?
I’m sorry, but you can’t.
Rankings are based on expected contribution in 2016-17—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.
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