Paul Millsap Needs to Attack the Rim More
But despite a mostly promising start for his team, Millsap has shooting numbers that are quite concerning.
Just take a look at his effective field goal (eFG%) and true shooting percentages (TS%) through 18 games compared to his career averages.
Millsap is down four or five percentage points across the board.
He hasn't been this inefficient at any time in his career, but there are a few glaring issues that could be part of the reason this top-tier talent is having a subpar year as we approach the quarter mark of the season.
The Midrange Jumper
The first issue for Millsap is that he is shooting too many midrange jump shots, and his attempts close to the basket have gone way down.
Last year, Millsap attempted 36.3% of his shots within three feet of the basket, and this season, that mark is 24.1%.
Coincidently, he is shooting a career high 22.9% of his shots between 10 and 16 feet from the basket. Last year, he only shot 13.1% of his field goal attempts from that distance, and just to put that into perspective, Millsap is shooting nearly as many midrange jumpers as DeMar DeRozan is.
|2016-17||% of FGA from 10-16 feet||FG% from 10-16 feet|
With this comes all sorts of sub-problems for Millsap. Considering he is still shooting pretty much the same amount of three-pointers he has always shot in Atlanta, the midrange jump shot seems to be stifling his scoring.
Not Getting to the Basket
Millsap is also not driving to the basket. His free throw attempt rate (free throw attempts per field goal attempt) is way down to .285, which is nearly 10 points lower than last season. Also, out of his 249 shot attempts this season, only 2 of them have been dunks.
With all this, Millsap's average distance for his shot attempts has gone up to 12.0 feet this year. Last year, his average field goal attempt distance was 9.9 feet. His career mark is 8.6 feet.
So, what is causing Millsap to stop getting to the rim suddenly? The answer might actually be an pretty easy explanation.
Dwight Howard Factor
Over the last three seasons, Millsap has had the pleasure of working with Al Horford, a perimeter- and high-post-oriented big man who is a great passer and outside shooter.
Now, Millsap is playing with Dwight Howard, who exclusively plays in the post and is clogging up driving lanes that Millsap usually took advantage of with Horford hanging out around the perimeter.
When Millsap gets isolation touches, he has to deal with his defender and Howard's before he gets to the basket, hence the increase in midrange jumpers.
However, the solutions to the problem aren't to play Howard and Millsap together less frequently but to find innovative ways to give both of them opportunities at getting easy baskets.
For starters, they could run Millsap in the pick and roll more with Dennis Schroder.
According to NBA Stats, Millsap is only scoring on 37.3% of his pick-and-roll field goal attempts this season and is being used in only one in every five pick and roll attempts for the Hawks.
Howard is a great pick-and-roll player though, converting nearly 59% of his field goal attempts this season as the roll man.
So, another option might be to use Howard and Millsap in some four-five pick-and-rolls or even some high-low where Howard is at the high post either driving to the basket, running pick-and-roll with Millsap, or dumping it down for a post touch for Millsap.
It is hard though considering that Howard is leading the league in touches per game inside 12 feet at 8.4 and converting over 70% of his attempts when he gets a post touch, but Millsap is no slouch either from the post.
He is converting 51.3% of his post touches into buckets, and if he was shooting the ball closer to the basket, that might even go up. Last year, Millsap shot 62.4% when he touched the ball inside 12 feet.
It's not all doom and gloom for the Hawks, who are back to playing great defense and have flashed some upside at times. However, they rank 22nd in offensive rating at 105.1 points per 100 possessions, so in order to improve on that, they are going to need the old Millsap back soon.