Despite the Denver Nuggets’ 2018-19 season coming to an end in a tough Game 7 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, the season represented the leadership and consistent play that Paul Millsap can bring to the table.
After an injury-riddled 2017-18 campaign limited Millsap to just 38 games, the 34-year-old forward appeared in 70 games this past season. In the 65 games that Millsap started, Denver went 44-21, highlighting the impact he can have on both ends of the floor. Despite his scoring average and playing time decreasing this season, Millsap was more impactful when on the floor.
“I felt that I had a really good year,” Millsap said during his exit interview. “Despite points, rebounds being down, if you look a little deeper, it shows, and I’m proud of that.”
Millsap sold himself short, as his rebounding average actually increased to 7.2 per game this season. Overall, Millsap is certainly right in that the deeper numbers and analysis showcase his impact. The four-time All-Star had his highest player efficiency rating since the 2015-16 season, the highest true shooting percentage (a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account two-point field goals, 3-point field goals, and free throws) since 2010-11 and his most win shares (an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player) since 2016-17. Additionally, Millsap led the team with a +8.4-net rating.
Across the board, Millsap posted higher advanced metrics compared to last season. Despite his advanced age compared to NBA standards, he isn’t using that as an excuse when he steps on to the court.
“I gave my all, and there’s still room for improvement,” Millsap said. “That’s the bright side, even at 34 years old I know I can get better in several areas of my game, and that’s my goal. I’m not one to look at age and say that I’ve peaked.”
With the season officially coming to an end, Millsap is focused on improving his game and furthering the journey with the Nuggets in his pursuit of a championship.
“From how I want to do it and how I want my story to be told, this is definitely the group that can help me do it (win a title),” Millsap said. “It’s been a dream and goal of mine. I see the drive in these guys to get better. I feel comfortable with that.”
The marriage between Millsap and the Nuggets appears to fit and benefit both parties at this stage. Millsap went on to say as much: “I’ve been a guy that everyone has counted out over the years as an undersized four-man. I’ve always been doubted. That’s what made this year so special. This team was doubled throughout the whole year. We couldn’t do this, couldn’t do that, we’re too young, blah blah blah. We proved everybody wrong.”
Millsap understands and appreciates the impact he can have on a team like Denver that primarily relies on young players to drive success.
“For me, It’s not necessarily about proving people wrong, but proving to myself that I can do it my way and still win. I can do it with whoever I want to do it with. I can help a young, talented team reach that goal.”
Although the veteran forward understands that a team’s moment of glory can last only a short period of time, he believes this is just the beginning for this Nuggets squad.
“I feel like this team can definitely make a run for it,” Millsap said. “That’s everyone’s goal, and it should be. Next year is going to be even better. This year was a waking up and coming out party for a lot of guys, so next year will be better for sure.”