Utah Jazz: 2 free agents they should have pursued this offseason

Utah Jazz (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Utah Jazz
Paul Millsap vs Utah Jazz (Ashley Landis/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Utah Jazz signed Rudy Gay with the obvious goal of maximizing their positional versatility. The Los Angeles Clippers eliminated the Jazzmen in the Western Conference semi-finals with their consistent use of small-ball, five-out spacing lineups, using Nicolas Batum frequently at the center position. Gay was acquired primarily to counter similar lineups as a small-ball 5 option.

Gay is qualified for the role, but Paul Millsap may have been better.

A head-to-head comparison of the two veteran forwards certainly suggests as much. Millsap’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 16.4 from 2020-21 is indicative of a slightly above-average rotational NBA player, whereas Gay’s 14.7 mark is slightly below the adjusted league average of 15.0. Meanwhile, Millsap’s 0.2 Defensive Box Plus/Minus (DBPM) is also a superior mark to Gay’s -0.2.

Reuniting with Millsap over signing Gay wouldn’t have just had more sentimental appeal: it may have produced a better on-court impact, as well.

Utah Jazz faithful need not sound any alarms: Gay was a strong signing. His 38.1% three-point accuracy from 2020-21 surpasses Millsap’s 34.3%, and three-point shooting is an integral component of the role he’ll be asked to play. Still, it’s worth noting that Millsap shot a blistering 43.5% in 2019-20. Furthermore, beyond DBPM, Millsap’s reputation as a defender is definitively stronger than Gay’s.

Paul Millsap is still looking for his next NBA home: the Utah Jazz should have offered him a place in his first one.