Utah Jazz power forward Paul Millsap was left off this year’s All-Star team. It’s a decision I understand because Millsap is playing in a smaller market and is the NBA’s most underrated player. While there are only 12 spots on the Western Conference All-Star team, Paul Millsap is deserving of one of those spots.
Millsap was a major reason for the Jazz’s successful 11-4 January. He averaged 18.1 points per game and 9.1 rebounds per game in January, including eight games in which he scored 19 points or more. In this short first half of the season, Millsap has been consistent as he has scored in double figures in 19 of 24 games.
Millsap’s greatest strength is rebounding. He led the nation in rebounding three times at Louisiana Tech. Despite his 6-foot-8 frame, he has continued to rebound consistently at the NBA level. As of Feb. 10, Millsap had pulled down at least 10 rebounds in 13 games so far this season.
If you are going to add Millsap to the All-Star roster, then you need to remove someone from the list. 2011 NBA Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki would have been someone to cut this season. While he is headed for the Hall of Fame and was the key piece in a championship team last year, his inclusion on the All-Star team this year is based on reputation and not on what he has done in 2012. Nowitzki has averaged 22.8 PPG and 8.3 RPG over his career so his body of work speaks for itself. The All-Star games in every sport are notorious for giving spots to players based on their production over a long period of time, and by habit, they are the players people think of before those having a great year like Millsap.
During the month of January, the meat of the NBA schedule in this lockout shortened season, Millsap has outplayed Nowitzki. The German has only averaged 15.1 PPG and 5.8 RPG. For the entire season, as of Feb. 9, Nowitzki has averaged 17.6 PPG and 6.8 RPG compared to Millsap’s 16.5 PPG and 9.5 RPG. Furthermore, Nowitzki missed four games in January due to injury.
Millsap has always seemed to play in the shadow of others. No one believed that he had the size to
dominate at the college level, and all he did was lead the nation in rebounding three straight years. He was the 47th pick of the 2006 NBA draft and was considered an afterthought. More attention was paid to Ronnie Brewer and Dee Brown who were also drafted by the Jazz in 2006. He spent the first four years of his career playing in the shadow of Carlos Boozer, but he quickly won the fans over with his hustle, heart and determination. He has continually had to prove himself and he continues to produce.
The All-Star game is a great showcase for the 24 players having the best seasons, and with the Jazz’s successful month of January and Millsap’s role in those wins, it’s time to give him a much deserved All-Star appearance based on his production for this season. He is Utah’s best kept secret and while he does not get the national attention that a player like Dirk Nowitzki does, he is much more deserving of an All-Star bid.
Maybe someday Millsap will get the credit he deserves, but until then he remains one of the best kept secrets in the NBA today.