Hawks principal owner Tony Ressler has suggested that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to lock up free-agent-to-be Paul Millsap this summer, but acknowledged after adding Travis Schlenk to Atlanta’s front office that the new GM will have final say on basketball decisions. And, as Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes, Schlenk doesn’t sound like he’s ready to put a full maximum salary contract offer on the table for Millsap.
“We are going to make Paul our best offer,” Schlenk said, per Vivlamore. “Will he have better offers? I don’t know. Do we want to keep Paul? Sure. I said last week, if you are building a team with all the things I’ve said, Paul checks all those boxes. He’s a hard-worker. He’s a good guy. He’s high-character. Skilled. He does all that stuff. We’d like to have him. The reality is, he might get better offers than we can make him.”
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While Millsap could get the same starting salary from any NBA team, the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement allows the Hawks to offer the veteran big man more years and higher raises than any of the other 29 teams. As we detailed last month, based on a $101MM salary cap, the Hawks could go up to five years and $205MM+ for Millsap. Rival teams could offer $152MM+ over four years.
However, Schlenk’s suggestion that Millsap “might get better offers than we can make him” suggests that the Hawks won’t simply max him out. That approach to Millsap’s free agency probably makes sense. The former second-round pick is already 32 years old, and while he’s earned spots on four straight All-Star teams, he’s not exactly a perennial MVP candidate — having him on the books at age 36 for $46MM+ wouldn’t be ideal.
With Millsap’s Bird rights in hand, the Hawks have some flexibility in negotiations with Millsap, particularly in that fifth year. Last summer, for instance, the Grizzlies signed Mike Conley to a five-year contract that is only partially guaranteed in year five but is still worth more than what any other suitor could have offered. The Hawks could find a similar compromise, though it sounds as if another team willing to offer the full four-year max for Millsap could have a decent chance of luring him away from Atlanta.
Schlenk has met with Millsap’s agent twice since being hired by the Hawks, according to Vivlamore.