Season in review: Millsap’s inarguable importance

Denver Nuggets forward Paul Millsap (4) after the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Pepsi Center.
Apr 5, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Paul Millsap (4) after the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

After an injury shortened first year in a Denver Nuggets uniform, Paul Millsap bounced back with a solid 2018-19 season.

Before his solid season can be discussed, it bears mentioning where Millsap and the Nuggets stand moving forward. Millsap has a team option of $30 million for the upcoming season. That means the Nuggets have to figure out what they want to do fairly soon.

No matter what happens with that option, it seems like Millsap will be back in a Nuggets uniform next season. Tim Connelly discussed that situation at his end-of-the-year press conference.

“Our goal and Paul’s goal is to have him back with us and I think when both who have the same goal and they both have a lot of respect for each other, I’m pretty confident that will happen. I’m having dinner with Paul very soon, He’s got a fantastic agent, DeAngelo (Simmons). We’ll catch up, but we both want the same thing. We’ll figure out the best way for the organization and Paul to make sure that is achieved. So, I fully expect Paul to be back in a Nuggets uniform.”

Now to the fun stuff, which is what Millsap provided the Nuggets this past season. When Denver signed Millsap in free agency back in 2017, it was a huge win for a franchise on the rise. It was Connelly’s first big signing in free agency and arguably the biggest free agent acquisition in franchise history.

With their prize free agent finally in the building, it was a rough start for Millsap’s initial season in Denver. In a year that was shortened due to left wrist surgery, Millsap missed 44 of the Nuggets 82 games. That all changed for the better this past season as Millsap played in 70 games and averaged 12.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, and two assists per game.

Even while Millsap’s points per game totals were down from his first season in Denver (14.6), his all around efficiency was much better. He shot 36.5 percent from three-point range and had his highest true shooting percentage since the 2010-11 season. Millsap connected on 58 of the 159 3-pointers he attempted and really grew into a solid contributor within the Nuggets dynamic offense.

In the playoffs, Millsap’s three-point shooting came down to earth. He shot just 31 percent, but he found a way to score in other ways. Millsap averaged 14.6 points per game in 14 playoff games to pair with a 46.5 field goal percentage. He also hauled in 6.7 rebounds per game.

After a season that was full of so much promise for the Nuggets and Millsap, let’s take a look at how he improved, ways he can improve, and his overall grade for the 2018-19 season.

Ways Paul Millsap lifted Denver  

For a team that was searching for an identity defensively, Paul Millsap provided just that. Millsap had a lot to do with the Nuggets improved defense this past season. His assistance helped contribute to their longest postseason run in 10 years. Just last season, the Nuggets finished 23rd in the NBA with a defensive rating of 110, but Millsap missed 44 games.

With Millsap back in the lineup for almost every game last season, the Nuggets ended the year as the 10th best defense with a defensive rating of 108. Not only did Denver jump 13 spots in the rankings, but they were a top-5 defense for most of the season. That had a lot to do with Millsap. He was the Nuggets best shot blocker and all-around defender.

In the regular season, Millsap averaged 0.9 blocks per game, which jumped to 1.1 per game in the postseason. Not only did Millsap have a massive effect defending shots at the rim, but he also disrupted passing lanes as well. He chipped in 1.2 steals per game.

Between the blocked shots and steals, there are not enough stats that can truly show what Millsap brings the Nuggets. Not only is he a defensive savant, but Millsap is a veteran presence that played a massive role on a maturing Nuggets roster.

For a team that was making their first postseason run in six years, Millsap came into last year with 87 games of playoff experience. That was by far the most of any Nuggets player and it showed once the postseason began. It was evident that the moment was never too big for Millsap.

Ways Paul Millsap can still improve 

Heading into next season, it is important for Paul Millsap to stay healthy. In his first two seasons in Denver, Millsap missed 56 games. That is something the Nuggets cannot afford next season. Millsap is far to important to the Nuggets’ operation.

Entering his 14th season in the league, Millsap has to stay healthy next season. Millsap has missed a combined 56 games his first two seasons in Denver. That is something they can not afford next sin 2019-20.

From what he provides them on the defensive end of the court to his leadership in the locker room, Millsap is essential to the Nuggets success. If he can stay healthy next year, the Nuggets could be in for another successful season.

Another growing point for Millsap is his three-point consistency. Millsap will look to duplicate his career-year from three, which means shooting just over 35 percent from distance. If he can do that and stay healthy, Millsap could be in for another solid year next season.

Final Grade

B

Between what Paul Millsap provided Denver on both ends of the floor and in the locker room, he played a massive role in the Nuggets success. It is evident in the Nuggets struggles when Millsap is off the floor just how much they miss his presence.

Millsap played a big part in the Nuggets making their longest postseason run in a decade and he will continue to play a role in the franchises success moving forward. As long as he can stay healthy moving forward, the sky is the limit for Millsap and this Nuggets roster.

To read the rest of the Season in Review pieces for other players, click on their name below:

Jamal Murray | Monte Morris | Isaiah Thomas | Gary Harris | Torrey Craig | Juancho Hernangomez | Trey Lyles

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