The coaches got the decision right to include Paul Millsap of the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA All-Star Game for the Eastern Conference. Out of all the big men in the East, nobody produces at the level Millsap does on a nightly basis for his team. GM Danny Ferry knew he was getting a very productive power forward from the Utah Jazz after he posted not great, but solid numbers on a team where he wasn’t the first option scoring the basketball. However, I don’t think Ferry could have even anticipated the impact of Millsap with the Hawks.
At the beginning of the season he was supposed to be the second or third scoring option on an Atlanta team built around two very talented players, Jeff Teague and Al Horford. However, things changed quickly when Horford went down with a season-ending injury earlier in the year against the Cleveland Cavaliers. At that point Atlanta controlled the No. 3 seed in the East, but with news of the injury the season looked like it could take a turn for the worse without their best player on the floor. Millsap, though, wouldn’t let his team go away and put the Hawks on his back to make sure they could maintain their position in the East.
In 14 games since the injury, Millsap has been the leading scorer in almost every game — a big reason why the Hawks managed to go 7-7 during this stretch. He’s been so good with Atlanta that the NBA even named him the Eastern Conference Player of the Week after his performances guided the Hawks to a 3-1 record last week. What’s even more impressive is that he’s putting up a career-high 17.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, career-best 3.0 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.2 blocks in 33 minutes of action. To put these numbers into perspective, this makes Millsap the only player in the East averaging at least 16.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks per game which solidifies the coaches’ decision to include him as a reserve.
This will be Millsap’s first appearance in the All-Star game after being in the league for eight years, and there’s no one more deserving than him. He’s taken a depleted Hawks team on his back to maintain the No. 3 seed in the East in order to earn the right to be in New Orleans as a representative of Atlanta and the East.