Utah Jazz: Power forward Paul Millsap's play gaining notice

Published: Sunday, Jan. 29 2012 11:00 p.m. MST

Utah's Paul Millsap reacts after making a 3-point-shot sending the game into a second overtime as the Utah Jazz are defeated by the Toronto Raptors 111-106 in double overtime in NBA basketball Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Paul Millsap recently said something that wasn't true.

He wasn't trying to lie.

The statement the Utah Jazz power forward made — one that showed humility and a desire to get better — simply didn't accurately portray reality or facts.

That is more evident than ever a week after these words came out of Millsap's mouth when the sixth-year player was asked if he's playing his best basketball:

"I don't really look back," he said. "I'm only as good as my last game, that's how I see it. I just try to continue to get better."

No one will dispute him on the not looking back part.

Nor will his commitment to improve be challenged.

It's the only-as-good-as-my-last-game part that doesn't accurately describe Millsap. Not after a game — Saturday's 96-93 win over Sacramento — in which he only scored six points and shot 2-for-10 from the field.

This season, especially in the past three weeks, Millsap has played so superbly on offense nights like that jump off the page. His 14-rebound effort, of course, shouldn't be downplayed, either.

Fact of the matter is, single-digit games have become more rare for the 26-year-old than double-digit quarters — like the 13-point third in Dallas on Friday and his most memorable 16-point flurry in the fourth during the win two weeks ago at Denver.

People across the league — across the continent even — are noticing.

"He's a great player. He's got all the moves and he can shoot the ball," Toronto big man Andrea Bargnani said of Millsap last week. "Every time, it's great fun to play against him. It's a great challenge."

ESPN writer Chris Palmer has jumped aboard the Millsap bandwagon, which is getting fuller by the stellar showing.

"Paul Millsap is by far the NBA's most underrated player," Palmer wrote on Twitter. "Not even close."

Palmer didn't stop there. He also showed where he stands in the ongoing debate about whether or not Millsap deserves to be included on the All-Star team with this fascinating fact:

"Paul Millsap has a higher PER than 21 of last year's 24 All-Stars. Your move, Western Conference coaches."

PER is an acronym for the player efficiency rating system concocted by ESPN basketball expert/stat guru John Hollinger to measure per-minute productivity.

Superstars LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant top the list, while Millsap has climbed up to No. 4 — ahead of Kevin Love (5), Dwight Howard (6), Al Jefferson (24) and far above Carlos Boozer (35).

Millsap's opponent tonight, Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge — a guy who might squeeze him out of an All-Star invitation from coaches — is 13th in the PER standings.

That's how good of a season the unheralded and undersized Millsap is having. Overall, the 6-foot-8 forward is averaging 17.0 points and 9.1 rebounds, and he's shooting a fourth-best .533 from the field to boot.

In the past 10 games, including Saturday's off night, Millsap has averaged 21.1 points and 9.6 rebounds.

Millsap hasn't cracked the top 10 contenders for an All-Star starting spot from fans' votes, but at least he was included on the ballot this year unlike previous seasons.

And remember when some people were clamoring for him to not start?

"I guarantee no team's overlooking him," Jazz guard Earl Watson said. "That's the ultimate respect when your peers actually (respect) what you do. ... I'm sure every coach, every player, they know when they play him they have to be ready because they know he can dominate a game."

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