Paul Millsap had options.
Several teams were interested in the services of the free agent after the Jazz renounced his rights Friday afternoon. Hours later, Millsap agreed in principle on a two-year, $19 million deal with the Hawks.
Millsap said the direction of the franchise tipped the scales in favor of the Hawks after seven seasons with the Jazz.
“That was one of the selling points, just the direction that they are headed in,” the 6-foot-8 power forward said Saturday. “I know they are not going to have a lot of the same team they had last year with a new coach and new players. The direction they are headed in is the direction that I’m headed in and that’s growth, continue to get better and strive for that ultimate goal.”
The Hawks also agreed on a two-year, $5 million contract with forward DeMarre Carroll, Millsap’s Jazz teammate, Friday night. Per NBA rules, the players cannot sign contracts until Wednesday.
The moves signaled the end of Josh Smith’s tenure in Atlanta. The unrestricted free agent forward, who spent nine seasons with his hometown Hawks, reportedly agreed to a four-year, $56 million deal with the Pistons on Saturday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the deals were reached.
The Hawks reached agreements with Millsap, 28, and Carroll, 26, hours after they learned that free-agent center Dwight Howard had declined their offer. Howard, a Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy product, picked the Rockets over the Hawks, Lakers, Mavericks and Warriors.
The Jazz renounced Millsap’s rights upon agreeing to a trade with the Warriors. In that deal, the Jazz obtained the expiring contracts of Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins and Brandon Rush. Millsap made $8.6 million last season and had an $11 million cap hold.
“I’m excited,” Millsap said of joining the Hawks. “There are a lot of mixed emotions right now. After being with a team for seven years to go to another team it is different. It will probably take me a little time to get over it, but I’m excited to be with the Hawks, and I’m excited to play for them.”
Millsap, selected in the second round (No. 47 overall) of the 2006 NBA draft out of Louisiana Tech, averaged 14.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 78 games last season. He said he expects to play power forward with the Hawks, but can play small forward if necessary.
Carroll, 6-8, was selected in the first round (No. 27 overall) by the Grizzlies in the 2009 draft out of Missouri. He averaged 6.0 points and 2.8 rebounds in 66 games last season. In Carroll the Hawks get a hard-working wing defender with size. The Hawks hope that work ethic will be contagious for the number of young players on the roster.
Carroll took to social media to express his excitement about signing with the Hawks. In part of a tweet he wrote “Atlanta here comes the #JunkYardDog!”
Millsap said he expects an expanded role for Carroll.
“He is a tough-nosed player,” Millsap said. “Very competitive. Every second he’s on the court he is going to give his all, diving for loose balls. He wants to guard the best offensive player. Just his grit and how he approaches the game.”
In Millsap and Carroll the Hawks continue to fill their roster with high-character players. The contracts also are cap friendly and could be moved if necessary. The Hawks have agreed to a four-year, $24 million deal with Kyle Korver. They added guard Jared Cunningham in a draft-day trade with the Mavericks and drafted Lucas Nogueira, Dennis Schroeder and Mike Muscala.