Utah Jazz: Paul Millsap's future position with Jazz unknown
Laura Seitz, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — In one of the interesting moments of the Utah Jazz's locker cleanout Thursday, Paul Millsap admitted he likes being a macho man.
Thankfully, Millsap did not don a Village People costume nor break out into their old song with that name while proclaiming that fact.
But the admission was made, and it provided insight into whether Millsap hopes to return next season as a power forward or a small forward.
The 6-foot-8, 250-pounder has no problem switching positions and sliding over to the 3 spot on occasion — something he did toward the end of the season to play alongside fellow bigs Al Jefferson and Derrick Favors.
Like his Bayou predecessor with the Jazz and at La. Tech, however, Millsap agreed that he remains a power forward at heart.
"I like to get down there and get physical. I like to get down there and try to show my strength, try to be a macho man," Millsap said. "It's fun down there to actually go up against a 7-footer and you know you're undersized and you know people are telling you that you can't guard this guy, you can't do that.
"I take it as a challenge."
In previous seasons, coach Jerry Sloan contemplated using the undersized power forward in the small forward position. Millsap even worked on it a bit in years past, long before Favors came along.
Though he isn't as quick as many small forwards, the 26-year-old's improved outside shot and versatility make him an intriguing candidate.
Then again, Millsap's tendency to pull down rebounds against bigger opponents, his soft mid-range touch and his improved interior game make him a pretty darned good power forward.
It's highly unlikely Millsap will be switched to full-time small forward, but Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin likes the possibilities of having another dangerous lineup that counters opponents' length.
Even Tim Duncan and Richard Jefferson told Big Al they were impressed by the Millsap-Favors-Jefferson combo when the Jazz recently played the Spurs.
"I think it'd be a weapon for us to get big as a group of guys with different guys playing different positions," said Corbin, adding that it's a way to fight height when you don't have a dominant 7-foot-2 center patrolling the paint.
As for Millsap, Corbin admitted his usual starting power forward occasionally struggled to guard players in the corner — he was used to staying inside, after all. But Millsap made strides in defending the perimeter by closing out on guys and not allowing them to blow by him. He's also done a decent job on transition defense.
"He's getting better at it," Corbin said. "And I feel very comfortable with him playing the 3 spot now."
Figuring out how to use the proven Jefferson and Millsap along with the up-and-coming Favors will be a challenge for Corbin next season, but early indications are that he won't try and completely convert the guy who filled in so nicely for Carlos Boozer.
Asked about Millsap being used more in the small forward spot, Corbin answered "Not primarily."
Added the Jazz coach: "I think his natural position is a four, but there'll be opportunities to use him at three some."
The hard-working Millsap said he will keep his same training routine this offseason — his usual power forward regimen. But he added that he will work harder on building lower-body muscles to help with his speed. Millsap also believes that getting small-forward seasoning during training camp and more reps at that position will increase his proficiency heading into his sixth season.
"I feel like if I get my legs under me, strengthen my legs up a lot more ... I'll be able to get out there and face the challenges of a 3," he said. "But mainly I'm not going to focus on that. I'm just going to focus on everything."
Whatever happens, the guy who received league-wide support after being left off the All-Star ballot last fall because of his power forward prowess will continue to be a consummate team player.
Small forward or power forward?
"That's not my decision," he said. "My job is to get out there and try to become the best basketball player I can be. I will be ready for whatever they want me to be."
And depending on Favors' progression, there could be another question looming in the future for Millsap, Jefferson and/or the talented 19-year-old: Starter or sixth man?
Paul Millsap's career statistics
Season . . . Pts . . . Reb . . . FG% . . . Min
2006-07 . . . 6.8 . . . 5.2 . . . 52.5 . . . 18.0
2007-08 . . . 8.1 . . . 5.6 . . . 50.4 . . . 20.8
2008-09 . . . 13.5 . . . 8.6 . . . 53.4 . . . 30.1
2009-10 . . . 11.6 . . . 6.8 . . . 53.8 . . . 27.8
2010-11 . . . 17.3 . . . 7.6 . . . 53.1 . . . 34.3
Career . . . 11.3 . . . 6.7 . . . 52.8 . . . 26.0
NOTE: Points, rebounds and minutes played are per-game averages
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