The Denver Nuggets have been chasing starry veterans the past two years, determined to add experience and firepower to a promising young core.
They finally landed a big one Sunday, agreeing to terms with four-time All-Star forward Paul Millsap on a three-year deal worth $90 million, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the contract cannot be signed until Thursday.
Yahoo! Sports first reported the agreement.
Millsap’s signing also was reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which interviewed Millsap on Monday. He said the Atlanta Hawks never made a contract offer to keep him.
“It was pretty simple,” Millsap told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Denver, they came and they’ve been wanting me for years. They made that known. The presentation that they gave me, it felt comfortable, it felt real. At the end of the day it was going to be the team that I felt most comfortable with and Atlanta. Atlanta decided to go another direction. They didn’t want to make an offer. So it was pretty simple. Denver was the team.”
Millsap told the AJC that it was “definitely disappointing” to end the relationship with the team.
“Definitely a great four-year run,” Millsap told the AJC. “They helped me. The city of Atlanta has been unbelievable to me. I know that they are probably a little disappointed but I appreciated all the love that they showed to me. Atlanta is still going to be my summer place. My family is still going to be there. They’ve been great.
“You hear a lot of talk before I got there, the fans this, the fans that. Actually being in it, they are dedicated and loyal fans. They’ve always had my back from day one. I’m very appreciative for that.”
Millsap gives the young Nuggets a proven veteran who should fit perfectly with coach Michael Malone and budding star Nikola Jokic.
Millsap will play power forward next to Jokic, the 6-foot-10 Serb who averaged 16.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists last season. The Nuggets also have dynamic young wings Jamal Murray and Gary Harris.
The Nuggets (40-42) improved by seven games,but still missed the playoffs for a fourth straight season.
They lost out to Portland for the eighth and final spot in the West. The string of futility has ramped up the urgency even more now that the Western Conference figures to be as stacked as it has ever been.
Millsap was a second-round draft pick of the Utah Jazz in 2006. He spent his first seven seasons with the Jazz, developing into a rugged, two-way player, then signed with the Hawks in 2013. He has career averages of 14.2 points and 7.5 rebounds and made $20 million last season.
After stripping coach Mike Budenholzer of his president’s title, saying goodbye to GM Wes Wilcox and bringing in Schlenk, the Hawks are in the middle of a retooling process. They traded Dwight Howard to Charlotte and wouldn’t get into a bidding war with the Nuggets to retain Millsap as they shift gears after seeing their win total drop from 60 in 2014-15 to 48 in 2015-16 and 43 last season.
In the last two years, Millsap, Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll and Al Horford have all left from that 60-win team, an exodus that has thrust the franchise into an uncertain position.
Millsap’s arrival in Denver makes the Northwest Division in the Western Conference particularly grueling. Millsap and Jokic will have to contend with George and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic in Portland and Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Butler in Minnesota.
And that doesn’t even take into consideration a possible Jazz trio of Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert and Ricky Rubio – if Hayward chooses to stay in Utah.