The Hawks are quietly optimistic about their chances to sign Paul Millsap when he hits free agency this summer, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today says on the A to Z podcast (audio link at 21:31 mark; hat tip to fellow USA Today scribe Sam Amick, on Twitter). Zillgitt and Amick implied in a January podcast that the sides had mutual interest in a return, and that jibed with comments that Millsap and acting GM Mike Budenholzer made earlier in the season. There is no such confidence from Atlanta with fellow soon-to-be unrestricted free agent DeMarre Carroll, as Zillgitt details, though there’s no indication that Carroll is leaning toward playing elsewhere, either.
Budenholzer said before this season that the team wanted to keep Millsap, and even though most of the 30-year-old’s numbers have either declined or held steady, it would seem surprising if the coach/executive’s stance had changed, particularly given Atlanta’s rousing success this year. Still, there’s uncertainty about whether Budenholzer will continue to have the final say with Tony Ressler leading a group that finalized a deal to buy the franchise last month, pending NBA approval. Millsap, a DeAngelo Simmons client, said in November that he intended to look at his options this summer but made it clear that remaining with the Hawks was his top choice.
Millsap signed a two-year, $19MM deal with Atlanta in 2013 and turned down the team’s offer of a four-year, $36MM contract with the thought that he’d have a better chance to secure a more lucrative deal this summer than he would two years from now, according to Zillgitt. It’s not clear whether Millsap is indeed better off hitting free agency this year, since the salary cap is projected to spike to $108MM by the summer of 2017, but it nonetheless suggests that Millsap is ready to cash in after having spent the past two seasons as a relative bargain.
The Hawks have Early Bird rights on Millsap and Carroll, so they won’t be able to go all the way to the max to re-sign either of them without using cap space to do so. Atlanta can go as high as $16.625MM with Millsap via Early Bird, while the most they could give Carroll using those rights will be 104.5% of this season’s average player salary, a figure that won’t be known until the end of the July Moratorium but which figures to come in around $6MM.