Despite playing without Anrei Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur, Matt Harping, Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams for an extended period of time so far this year, the Utah Jazz are 17-13 and only 1.5 games behind the Denver Nuggets for first place in the Western Conference's Northwest Division. A significant factor to the Jazz's success has been the development of power forward Paul Millsap.
Millsap is an undersized power forward, who fell to the seventeenth pick in the second round in 2006. The Jazz were hoping that Millsap would continue to dominate the glass once he arrived in the NBA, as he did during three seasons at Louisiana Tech. Millsap led the nation in total rebounds per game and offensive rebounds per game in each season he played college basketball. However, Millsap has shown an ability to do much more than just rebound.
Millsap has been able to overcome his height disadvantage by using his wide body effectively and having unusual quickness for one with his great strength. The next important piece for him to develop will be an effective mid-range shot, which will allow him to stretch the defense. A main concern has been his propensity to foul, which has been an obstacle for Jazz coach Jerry Sloan in giving Millsap more playing time.
Rank Player Name Team Fouls Per Game Minutes Per Game PAR Per Game
1 Paul Millsap Uta 3.9 31.8 25.8
2 Andrew Bogut Mil 3.9 31.5 24
3 Danny Granger Ind 3.9 36.3 32.8
4 Andris Biedrins GS 3.8 32 28.5
5 Nene Hilario Den 3.6 33 23.1
At the beginning of the season, many still believed that Millsap is simply a glorified energy player. However, in Boozer's absence, Millsap has shown he is much more than just that. Since Boozer went out with an injured knee on November 19, Millsap has filled the starting power forward spot admirably:
FG Percentage: 58.5%
In fact, Millsap has joined the top echelon of power forwards this season, who average 15 or more points per game, 1 blocked shot per game, and 8 rebounds per game.
Rank Player Name Team Reb BS Pts
1t Al Jefferson Min 10.1 1.9 22.4
1t Amar'e Stoudemire Pho 8.9 1.1 22.4
3 Dwight Howard Orl 13.9 3.7 20.3
4 Tim Duncan SA 10.4 1.8 20.3
5 Yao Ming Hou 9.6 1.8 20.1
6 Kevin Garnett Bos 8.9 1.4 16.4
7 Paul Millsap Uta 9.0 1.3 15.0
The Jazz power forward has recorded a double-double in each of his last 15 games, including a league-leading 11 in the month of December. He also leads the Jazz in total points, rebounds and blocks on the season. Millsap is one of only six players in the NBA currently leading his team in all three categories. Only six players in the Western Conference have more than thirty blocks and thirty steals on the season. Both Millsap and teammate Andrei Kirilenko are apart of this group.
At the end of the season, Boozer will likely opt out of his current contract allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent. Millsap will also be an unrestricted free agent as his contract expires at year end. Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor will have a difficult decision whether to lock up both players long-term or to allow one of them to leave as a free agent. By the way Millsap has played this season, it will certainly be a critical choice for the Jazz franchise.