Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The undervalued Paul Millsap

The Jazz won of the most incredible regular season basketball games you will ever see. They were down 8 with 33 seconds left to the Miami Heat and someone how tied it before winning it in overtime. Paul Millsap was incredible all game with 46 points, which included 11 points in the final 28 seconds. If you want to read about the game check it out. I had actually written the below post before the game tonight. It seems more relevant now.

Paul Millsap has consisently been underrated. In high school he was rated as the 130th best prospect. He went to Lousiana Tech and ended up leading the NCAA in rebouding for three consecutive years. After a long, extremly productive college career (he did more than rebound) was over he might have expected to be drafted in the 1st round especially considering how *weak the talent was in the 2006 NBA draft. He fell to the 46th pick and the Utah Jazz. However, before you give the Jazz too much credit keep in mind that they passed on him twice to take Ronnie Brewer (14th) and Dee Brown (46th). In fact there is quite a list of of players that were taken before Millsap that haven't come close to his levels of production.

*Check out the 2006 Nba draft just in case you want to see the list of players taken before Millsap.

For a simple exercise let's look at the top 5 picks in the 2006 draft. All five players were between 6-8 and 6-11 in height and all five players were forwards. In fact everyone, but Adam Morrison just happen to play the power forward position that Millsap plays. In terms of wins produced in the NBA so far here is the order of those top 5 players:
  • LaMarcus Aldridge: 28.8 wins
  • Tyrus Thomas: 12.3 wins
  • Andrea Bargnani: 11.8 wins
  • Shelden Williams: 6.3 wins
  • Adam Morrison: -1.4 wins

Paul Millsap has produced 26 wins, which means he falls right below LaMarcus Aldridge in total wins produced. Now given the choice I would still take Millsap over Aldridge (even removing the salary difference) because Millsap has produced only 10% less wins despite Aldridge playing in 29% more minutes. Millsap has been a better shooter (53% eFG% > 49%), rebounder (Total Rebound 16.3% > 13%) and has produced a higher WS/48 minutes every single year. And oh yeah just in case you were looking at salary Millsap has made half what Aldridge has made so far.

I would rather have Millsap than any of the top 5 picks and besides Aldridge it really isn't even that close. Still two of the top 5 players (Aldridge and Bargani) from that draft make more money than Millsap with a third (Thomas) being paid only $1M less.

Millsap has been extremely productive over his first four years of service to the Jazz and for that he has been paid $9.8M. That is obviously a lot of money in real world terms, but in the world of the NBA that has been a huge bargain. The Jazz paid less than $133K per win that Millsap produced in the first three years and with the huge bump in salary (an 864% raise) he was paid $900K per win (regular season and playoffs) last year. Over the first four years he was paid $395K per regular season win he produced for the Jazz. To give you some perspective Kobe Bryant was paid $1.8 for every win (regular season and playoffs) he produced for the Lakers.

In fact Millsap was the most cost efficient of all of the Jazz regulars last year with one glaring exception. Wesley Matthews produced 5 wins over the course of the year, which considering he made only $457K means that his COW (Cost of Win) = $92K. In fact I looked up a few NBA players off the top of my mind to see how their COW compared to the Jazz players from last year.

The Jazz have Millsap locked up for the next three years at a very reasonable rate considering his age and production. If anything the Jazz just have to play him more and they will start seeing one of the most productive players in the NBA. That is why it shouldn't be too suprising that now that his minutes per game has increased to 36.5 this year his wins produced ranking is now 12th in the league right after Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard.

If he keeps this up then maybe some day he won't have to sit and watch other less talented players get the headlines. Maybe then he will also be able to see his jersey next to Wiliams, Boozer, Kirienko, Malone, Hornachek and Okur when a fan searches for jerseys on fansedge.com. (You can get a great white Millsap jersey on the utahjazzstore.com so they are out there). Maybe some day he will also have a statue outside Energy Solutions Arena (or whatever it is called then). I for one don't want to be the next in a long line of people who to underestimate Paul Millsap.

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