Just shy of 24 hours ago, it was reported by Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the Atlanta Hawks have taken Paul Millsap off the trade market. The word apparently came for Hawks GM Wes Wilcox:
Sources: Atlanta GM Wes Wilcox has started informing teams today that Paul Millsap is no longer on the trade market.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) January 9, 2017
This all sounds rather gentlemanly. Maybe a bit too gentlemanly, to be honest. It was only last week, after the Hawks dumped favoured son Kyle Korver on, let me see here — [checks paper] — the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers, when Atlanta seemed destined for a tank and rebuild mission. The 60-win team of yesteryear is all but gone now with only a couple of Mikes (Scott and Muscala), Dennis Schroder (then lightly used), Thabo Sefolosha, and of course Millsap, still on the team. Dwight Howard has since been brought in, much like an exterminator, to hose down whatever good vibes are left.
The Hawks as currently constructed are 21-16, which is good for fourth in the Eastern Conference. It’s not a superbad place to be (Howard’s presence notwithstanding), even if Atlanta’s return to the unremarkable middle mirrors where the Hawks used to be for much of the 90s, late 00s, and 10s. That 60-win team was their one shining moment (to get mauled by LeBron James).
All of this is to say: the Hawks could still very much be in the trade market with Millsap, the only veteran player they have left who moves the needle for, ah yes, the Raptors. For Wilcox and the Hawks, talking trade with Millsap now, in early January, was a way to gauge the market and get teams working. Taking Millsap off the block doesn’t necessarily mean the Hawks won’t trade him — they’re still in the same situation: a middling team with a quality veteran player set to become a free agent — it just means the price isn’t right yet. The trade deadline is on February 23rd, so there’s still plenty of time to haggle.
For the Raptors however, this suggests one of two things, both of which are tough to contemplate right now.
First, it means that the presumable opening offer Masai Ujiri put up was not enough. Since we’re all a bunch of armchair general managers, let’s assume the package to pry Millsap loose from Atlanta involved a combination of Terrence Ross, Jared Sullinger, Jakob Poeltl (or Pascal Siakam) and a first round draft pick in 2017. Maybe Sully was subbed out for Patrick Patterson, maybe a call was placed for Norman Powell, maybe Delon Wright made an appearance — that’s all we’ve got to go on for now. While we like to believe this would be enough to get Millsap, maybe some other team put forward a better offer (which was also rejected). Maybe Toronto’s best wouldn’t be good enough regardless of how nicely Millsap would fit on the Raptors’ roster. Oof.
Second, maybe the Hawks really are going to hold onto Millsap. He’s definitely expressed an attitude as of late that suggests he wants to stay in Atlanta. And while the team is under no obligation to re-sign him, they may not theoretically lose him for nothing a la Al Horford last summer. Maybe we’ve spent a lot of time discussing hypotheticals that were never meant to be. For all we know, Millsap plays out the season, the Hawks go down swinging in the playoffs, and he re-signs to be a Hawk into his retirement.
The unfortunate conclusion to both of these points is this: the Raptors, as currently built, are on their own.
Update to the Update: Unless the Hawks are particularly cruel, it looks like Millsap will stay in Atlanta for the rest of the season, as per ESPN.