Nuggets excited about Millsap acquisition
Power forward from Atlanta is “perfect fit” for Denver
When Malik Beasley was in high school outside Atlanta, he and his family would regularly attend Hawks games. His experience as an NBA fan often went well beyond the final buzzer.
Beasley, now a Nuggets guard preparing to enter his second professional season, had a connection to Paul Millsap. Their families have been longtime friends and would watch Hawks games together at Philips Arena. Beasley, dreaming of his own NBA career on the near horizon, found himself at Millsap’s house after Atlanta’s games, soaking in all he could from the team’s allstar power forward.
“I remember chilling with him and working out with him,” Beasley said. “Now he’s playing with me. It’s just really cool.”
Beasley texted Millsap on Sunday night soon after he heard that Millsap and the Nuggets had agreed to a three-year, $90 million contract. The third year of
that deal is a team option.
“Paul Millsap is real quiet, but he’s a superstar who gets the job done and works hard,” Beasley said after practice Monday for Denver’s summer league team. “He’s working hard when you guys don’t see it. At his home, he has an exercise room that he’s always working out in. He’s humble and, other than that, just a great guy, a perfect fit for this team.”
Millsap won’t officially become a member of the Nuggets until the NBA’s moratorium for signing new contracts is lifted Friday. As is standard during the moratorium, there was no comment from Nuggets executives or coaches, only knowing grins that seemed to stretch a little wider than usual. But forward Juancho Hernangomez followed an emoji-chocked tweet welcoming Millsap on Sunday night with more thoughts about his new teammate.
“He’s an all-star and we need a player like him,” Hernangomez said Monday. “He’s going to step up for the Denver Nuggets.”
The arms race in the Western Conference has moved fast and furious since the Golden State Warriors lifted the championship trophy three weeks ago. The Timberwolves, Rockets and Thunder all added a star to their rosters through trades. The Kings made a splash with three firstround draft picks who could make quick impacts. The Trail Blazers moved into the lottery to draft rim protector Zach Collins. Oh, and Golden State kept the core of its dynastic team together.
To keep pace, and maintain some of the momentum built by their first 40-win season since 2013, the Nuggets had to do something they hadn’t done in nearly two decades: land a marquee free agent. Their own attempts at trades had been foiled in the days before and after the draft. Pulling a player off the open market became imperative. The Nuggets didn’t take any chances, even enlisting the help of Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall to make a pitch to Millsap.
But in the end, the Nuggets made things easy for Millsap, who lived in Denver during the first 11 years of his life before mov- ing to Louisiana.
“It was pretty simple,” Millsap told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Denver, they came and they’ve been wanting me for years. They made that known.
“The presentation that they gave me, it felt comfortable, it felt real. At the end of the day it was going to be the team that I felt most comfortable with and Atlanta. Atlanta decided to go another direction. They didn’t want to make an offer. So it was pretty simple. Denver was the team.”
Millsap, who averaged a career-high 18.1 points per game last season and has made four consecutive Eastern Conference allstar teams, represents the high-profile player the Nuggets have been seeking to pair with their young core of center Nikola Jokic, guards Gary Harris and Jamal Murray and Hernangomez, a forward. But it’s unlikely that president of basketball operations Tim Connelly and general manager Arturas Karnisovas are done making moves.
Denver is interested in — among others — point guard George Hill, who averaged a career-high 16.9 points per game during his lone season with the Utah Jazz. The Nuggets will pursue a deal if they are able to move some salary, The Ringer reported Sunday. However, there is competition for the services of the top remaining point guard on the market. Hill met Monday with the Los Angeles Lakers and discussed a possible one-year contract, ESPN reported.
The Nuggets’ pursuit of their own unrestricted free agent, forward Danilo Gallinari, is less clear. Gallinari met Saturday with the Los Angeles Clippers and has drawn interest from other teams. His market could be determined by all-star forward Gordon Hayward, who is expected to choose an offer from Boston, Miami and Utah this week.
Even if the Nuggets aren’t able to retain Gallinari or sign Hill, movement is likely at the power forward position. Millsap will be joining Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, Trey Lyles, Hernangomez and draft pick Tyler Lydon as players who have had significant playing time at the position. Faried, who is due $12.9 million next season, and Arthur ($7.4 million) could be fits for teams trying to absorb veteran contracts.
Paul Millsap, a former Atlanta Hawks star, has accepted the Nuggets’ offer of a three-year contract worth $90 million. He will sign the contract Friday.
Veteran forward Paul Millsap, from Louisiana Tech, averaged 18.1 points and 7.7 rebounds last season with the Atlanta Hawks.