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No Mailman, But Millsap Delivers

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This was originally going to be called "The Obligatory Paul Millsap Praise Piece," but that seemed a tad unfair.  Though the "obligatory" would have been tongue-in-cheek, it might come off a bit negatively in print, and the truth is that I've been waiting for the right time to write about him.  Granted, it would have been nicer if he didn't provide that reason by having the game of his life against our beloved Celts last night.

While 32-point games may be a bit atypical for Paul Millsap, the effective play at both ends of the floor and the wire-to-wire effort aren't.

While the resulting stat line from last night's game (13-for-20 from the field, 6-for-9 from the line, 32 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks)  leaned to the very high side for Millsap, the approach was standard.  This is a guy who doesn't force his offense as far as creating his own shots are concerned.  He takes what the defense gives him in primary offensive sets, and he uses his own aggressiveness on the glass to make the rest happen.

Millsap knows that he plays with one of the league's premier point guards in Deron Williams and a talented offensive big man who likes to stray from the basket in Memo Okur.  In order to best complement them, Millsap has become adept at drifting to open spots around the basket.  He is constantly moving offensively, either going block to block on the baseline underneath or making basket cuts down the middle of the lane.

Players and coaches love to talk about the value of playing within oneself.  Often, that is another meaningless cliche amidst many others of modern sports lexicon.  Not in the case of Paul Millsap.  The guy is no great shakes as a jump shooter, and he doesn't fit the traditional description of a finesse scorer.  So he keeps the formula simple enough: Be in a position to catch the ball cutting toward the basket or in a ready position on the block.  It most often results in a lay-up or a dunk, especially if Millsap has been able to find a dead zone in the defense, or if Williams has forced a help defender to commit (we saw this lead to easy finishes on a couple of occasions last night). 

While there is no doubt a value in keeping defenses honest by being a versatile scroer, there is also no reason - especially on a talented offensive team - to force shots that are outside of one's comfort zone.  Millsap is taking 65 percent of his shots from inside, and it is no surprise that he is posting a true shooting of 59.1 percent on the season.  That isn't for lack of opportunities either as the third-year forward is averaging 13.7 points per game overall this year.  That figure rises to 16.7 in 12 starts.

Along with smart decisions offensively, Millsap's aggressiveness is a big part of his success.  When he gets the looks he wants inside, he goes right at the rim with no hesitation.  He has also been a terror on the boards since the day he entered the league.  Millsap posts 10.1 boards per 36 minutes for his career.  He is putting up a career high 8.6 per game this season and 11.2 as a starter.  The 23-year-old from Louisiana Tech is a particular danger on the offensive glass, which he loves to crash to give himself a chance to finish a few more garbage buckets inside.  Millsap is fourth in the NBA in offensive rebounds this season, and he is fifth in offensive rebound percentage, grabbing 13.6 percent of available rebounds on the offensive end when he is on the floor.

Millsap's bulldog mentality helps him on the defensive end as well.  In comparison to the 65 percent of his field-goal attempts that come from inside, Millsap holds opposing power forwards to taking just 37 percent of their shots from the inside.  It is no surprise then that those opposing fours are posting an effective field goal percentage of just 49.1 percent.  The 6-8 Millsap still has trouble with taller frontcourt players as evidenced by his struggles against Kevin Garnett on Monday night, and he needs to use his fouls more judiciously.  Millsap is currently leading the league in personal fouls, and last night marked his third disqualification of the season.  It would benefit him to curb that part of his aggressiveness so that he can stay on the court.  But it's hard to kill him too much considering that he has averaged nearly 35 minutes per game in his starts, and his team is 6.2 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Millsap on the court than off it.

No, Paul Millsap isn't Carlos Boozer, the man who normally starts ahead of him when healthy.  He lacks Boozer's size, quickness and shooting touch.  But as Tommy Heinsohn noted during last night's game, Boozer is a terrific player.  As Tommy also noted, Paul Millsap is a fine player in his own right.  And there is plenty to be said for that, especially since the youngster is only continuing to improve.

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