Paul Millsap Opts For Free Agency, Could He Return To The Atlanta Hawks?

Paul Millsap made it official. The Atlanta Hawks’ all-star has announced that he has opted out of the final year of his contract. In bypassing the final season of his deal, Millsap will be able to test free agency this summer. He could become the most coveted free agent on the market if he does not sign a long-term deal to stay with the Hawks.

Expect several teams to be interested in signing Paul Millsap. The forward will leave a guaranteed contract (courtesy of Yahoo Sports) worth $21.4 million on the table in order to test the market. While many people may find it difficult to fathom why Paul Millsap walked away from a contract that rich, doing so was a wise decision.

Paul Millsap is taking advantage of a free agency market filled with teams that have an abundance of cap space. A couple of those teams are expected to be playoff contenders who are looking to take the next step. It is also not out of the realm of possibility that Millsap would re-sign with the Atlanta Hawks on a long-term contract.

Millsap is one of the top available free agents, despite being 32-years-old and an NBA veteran. Few players have improved and added different layers to their games as Millsap has with the Hawks. He entered the NBA and made a name for himself with hustle plays. Millsap has turned himself into a perennial all-star, with career averages of 14.2 points and 7.5 rebounds a game.

Paul Millsap seeks to shoot over Amir Johnson.

Millsap has gone from a solid low-post player to one with a strong all-around game. One of the biggest improvements that Millsap has made is his outside shooting.

This past season with the Hawks, Paul Millsap made 31 percent of his three-pointers. It is not a lofty number, but considering the fact that his offensive game is still evolving, his stroke from distance can get better. What may come across as alarming is the fact that Millsap’s overall field goal percentage has dipped once he began attempting shots from behind the three-point line.

Several teams could use a player with Millsap’s ability, but how many of them can afford to sign him?

The Philadelphia 76ers are expected to have the most cap room of any NBA team. According to Real GM, it is anticipated that the Sixers will have around $46 million in cap room. And they could max out at over $65 million. Because the 76ers are loaded in the frontcourt, they will no target the Hawks’ star.

After eliminating the 76ers from the discussion, the next team that could have the most cap room could be the Miami Heat.

No one knows which players the Heat will go after in NBA free agency. They could honestly go after Paul Millsap or try to lure one of the bigger names such as Blake Griffin to Miami. If so, they would lose out on a player who can help elevate them to the next tier of Eastern Conference teams. Blake Griffin becoming a free agent will help the market of Paul Millsap tremendously.

Teams that are eyeing Griffin would lose out on Millsap, who should be one of, if not the most sought-after free agent of the summer. That is because he stands as a more realistic option to change teams amongst the available free agents.

With a market that could include Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Gordon Hayward, only Hayward could conceivably be the only player that would move. That instantly moves Paul Millsap up the ranks as an available player.

Teams that realistically will not land Curry and the like, will look towards Paul Millsap. That could include the Boston Celtics and the Dallas Mavericks. Both teams could use a player with his ability to help them get over the hump.

In the Celtics case, Millsap would give their frontcourt an instant upgrade. As for the Mavericks, he could be the heir apparent to Dirk Nowitzki.

The Atlanta Hawks cannot be counted out either. What could hurt them would be the fact that they are without a general manager. According to ESPN, the Hawks have scheduled an interview with former NBA star Chauncey Billups regarding their vacancy. If hired, could Billups be the key to selling Paul Millsap on the Atlanta Hawks’ direction. Locking Millsap up to a long-term deal could prove costly.

[Featured Image by Mike Zarilli/Getty Images]