NBA / Jan 18, 2012 / 5:30 pm

Paul Millsap’s NBA All-Star Conundrum

Paul Millsap

Paul Millsap

Basketball fans can never agree on anything, but anyone that has seen Utah play this year needs to sit back and declare this is probably the most surprising team in the league. 9-4. Second in the Northwest Division, which is only probably the best division in basketball. No. 11 in John Hollinger’s Power Rankings with eight wins in their last 10 games. Last night, when I watched them mercilessly chain the Clippers to a wall and then take batting practice at them, I thought I was watching over-the-top basketball scenes from Above The Rim. Everything was a dunk, a lob, a moment that had Matt Harpring nearly out of his seat yelling about how awesome the Jazz are. It was ugly.

But what we really should’ve taken from that game was how Paul Millsap (20 points) outplayed Blake Griffin in the same way that he went to work against Denver (26 points) by abusing Danilo Gallinari and Al Harrington in the post. He went to work in the same way he did against the Lakers, when he dropped 29 and nearly drove Utah to a surprising overtime win.

I actually had a bet with my man Aron Phillips (C.J. Miles is his boy) right at the beginning of the season that I thought Minnesota would finish with more wins than the Jazz. Looks like I’ll be taking the short end of the stick on this one. The Jazz might be benefitting from a friendly schedule littered with clusters of home games, but they are still one overtime away from riding a nine-game win streak. They also actually beat Philly, which is crazy now considering no one can even give the Sixers a game. And now that they’ve won two in a row at Denver and against the Clippers, it’s time to start taking them seriously as a playoff team.

Millsap has emerged as the team’s best player. His numbers – 15.9 points and 8.4 rebounds – aren’t anything special. But he’s playing only 29 minutes a night, mostly because the Jazz have enough big men to outfit every Warrior team since 2005 with a pivot. Al Jefferson has slightly better numbers at first glance (18 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks a night), but he’s played more, taken more shots, missed WAY more shots and hasn’t been the one driving Utah in the past few games.

It was Millsap who consistently killed the Lakers inside with timely buckets. It was Millsap who obliterated the Nuggets’ second-half chances by putting spin move after spin move on them. After a very slow start, in his last four games Millsap is averaging 23.3 points, 9.8 boards, 2.5 steals and done it all on 58 percent from the floor. His PER is up in the sky at 26.55, higher than every other power forward in the league, and including eligible players (Manu Ginobili hasn’t played since breaking his left hand on January 2), Millsap trails only three names: LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant.

Do I think he’ll do it… actually become an All-Star? There’s probably no harder spot to break through than as a Western Conference power forward. Just check out the names: Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Pau Gasol, Zach Randolph and Tim Duncan. Jefferson, his own teammate, has the reputation to make it in over Millsap as well. But, we’ve know for awhile that Millsap has always put in work when given the minutes. If he was ever given 36 minutes a night, his career averages would be up around 16 and nine.

Every season, there are underrated players putting in enough work to be recognized, but it takes the perfect blend of situation, stats, winning and a narrative that presents it all. If Millsap keeps playing at this level, he’s All-Star worthy. I doubt anyone will notice though.

Do you think Millsap has a chance to make the All-Star Game?

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  • giptheclip

    Does he have a chance? Sadly, the realistic answer to that question is no. Not because of ability or performance, but because he isn’t pimped by media to the hoards of casual fans who end up voting for who plays. But for anyone who’s ever followed ball on a more than casual level, the answer is a resounding yes.

  • Tdot

    Well honestly, I think he hasn’t got a shot at being a starter for the aforementioned reasons, but the coaches decide the reserves for the all-star games so he might be on the bench. Do one of these for my boy Andrea Bargnani!

  • Banny

    Bargnani? If losses don’t matter it should be Greg Monroe.

  • http://ufl.edu Big Freeze

    I enjoy watching a team like the Jazz go old school by just abusing teams in the low block. Millsap and Jefferson is the second best center-power forward combo in the league in terms of low post offense (Pau and Bynum).

  • K Dizzle

    5 forwards: Blake, Durant, Love, Aldridge n Dirk…sorry Paul. Maybe get traded to the Hornets then Stern will just put you in with the ‘commissioner’s vote’…

  • UncheckedAggression

    One of the most obvious things I’ve taken from watching the Jazz is that Millsap isn’t really getting outplayed by anyone. But yeah, it will be hard to break into the ASG.

    Millsap is better than Griffin this season, and I don’t think it’s very close. But there is no way he gets in to the ASG over Griffin. Sucks.

  • Andy

    Ya diehard Jazz here, but Millsap won’t get close to the votes he deserves. Remember last year when he was left off the ballot after a great start to the season including that Miami game where he had 11 points in 29 seconds and 40 something on the night? I love Millsap and he deserves it more than anyone, but the West has too many “big name” forwards.

  • ROBL35

    Milksap is one of my favorite players mostly because of how underrated he is the guy drops 30 & 10/15 regularly & is a great player to watch on a contending team with a superstar player & Millsap as 2nd option would in my opinion be a deep playoff team.
    So yes Millsap for all star team in 2012 defenately…!!!

  • First & Foremost

    This is a recycled article… We heard this same story about Millsap last year after he gave THE Miami Heat 40+, forcing overtime after being down 20, and for a moment he was the best shooting big man in the league going 3 for 3 from 30 feet out with rainbow bombs in Bosh’s grill.

    Millsap is a rich man’s Brandon Bass. Slightly undersized, but does everything everywhere you need him to be.

    Reasons he won’t make the All-Star team:
    Plays in Utah
    Unless you’re into fantasy basketball you’ve never heard of him.
    ZERO Wow! highlights
    At first glance he is a glorified glue guy [Kris Humphries]

    Hell, the All-Star team shouldn’t be his biggest concern. Why isn’t he invited to tryout for Team USA? He is more fundamentally sound than Blake, better defense than Love, and more mobile than LMA. But I guess Millsap doesn’t have the bankroll to play at that table.