Could a Monroe-Millsap sign-and-swap suffice?

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Our look last week into the viability of luring Atlanta Hawks forward DeMarre Carroll to Detroit this offseason tended to evoke one of three responses:

1) Wait, don’t you remember what happened the last time the Pistons hedged their bets on a Hawks forward wearing the #5 jersey?

2) Draymond Green.

2) What about Paul Millsap?

Interestingly, Grantland’s Zach Lowe weighed in this past Friday on the prospect of Detroit landing the 30-year-old Millsap come July:

Millsap is a little old for Detroit’s timeline, but he’d be perfect spotting up around Reggie Jackson–Andre Drummond pick-and-rolls, and rival executives get the sense that Stan Van Gundy wants to start winning now.

The Hawks have been intrigued before with Greg Monroe, and if Millsap wants all the cash he can get, you can bet Atlanta would look at a Millsap-Monroe double sign-and-trade. Monroe can’t defend or space the floor like Millsap, but he’s a bruiser who can get buckets in the post, and Budenholzer would love his passing.

Following the debacle that was Josh Smith’s tenure in Detroit, it’s understandable for Pistons fans to pause when catching wind of a potential free agent target in Atlanta. But in the case of Millsap, Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy could find just the right frontcourt partner for the offensively challenged Andre Drummond.

While Monroe may have an edge on Millsap in terms of rebounding and post acumen, the six-foot-eight, 245-pound Millsap stands as a more skilled and versatile defender with the ability to spread the floor on the other end, thanks in large part to his .356 percent deep-ball proficiency (and yes, we fully understand that the terms “spreading the floor” and “Van Gundy” are quickly becoming as synonymous with one another as “Jay Bilas” and “Wingspan”). 

With Monroe averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds in 2015 and Millsap countering with 17 and 8, it may be easy to come to the conclusion that exchanging the two may come out as a wash for Detroit. However, while Monroe oftentimes needed the ball run through himself in the post to be effective, Millsap may be more attuned to molding into Detroit’s perimeter-oriented offense, serving as a legitimate spot-up threat off of Reggie Jackson pick-and-rolls and generally remaining a threat without demanding the ball for significant portions of the shot clock. Moreover, his commitment on the defensive end may serve as an immediate upgrade to a unit in much need of some TLC. 

But of course, questions remain. Perhaps most pressing, does a two-time all-star for a team coming off a 60-win season have any interest in starting over with a franchise simply pushing for a playoff berth? The answer to that question may hinge upon another: how badly does Paul Millsap want to get paid?

Early indicators suggest Millsap could yield anywhere between $15 and $19 million per year. Pushing closer to the latter could put Atlanta in a bind, forcing them to choose between retaining Millsap or Carroll for the sake of their salary cap’s health. Signing and swapping Millsap for a player like Monroe, whose style of play may fit quite well for Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer’s system, may allow Atlanta to yield some value for Millsap instead of losing him outright. 

On top of everything else, there’s the matter of Millsap’s age. Already 30 years old, Millsap may very well find himself on the downside of his career by the time even a two-year deal will have expired. On a team featuring a core of Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Andre Drummond (all 25 years old or younger), there’s a legitimate question as to whether Millsap fits the current trajectory of the Pistons’ franchise. 

All that said, Stan Van Gundy has given off numerous indicators that suggest he isn’t necessarily interested in a multi-year slow motion rebuild. If winning now is the goal, as it seems likely to be, reeling in an all-star vet like Paul Millsap for a few years could help these Pistons get over the hump.