Hawks ownership informed Millsap won’t opt in for player option

Hawks forward Paul Millsap intends to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Hawks forward Paul Millsap intends to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Hawks ownership was informed that Paul Millsap does not intend to exercise his player option for the 2017-18 season, according to a person familiar with the situation.

However, the four-time All-Star power forward did not need to inform the team of such an intention and could still exercise the final year of his contract up until June 23.

A player does not opt out of the player option unless there is an early-termination clause in the contract. Millsap’s contract is not so structured. The player chooses only to opt in to the player option. Millsap has the deadline of late June to do that.

Millsap will become an unrestricted free agent this summer if he simply does not inform the Hawks to pick up the $21,472,408 salary that he would be owed next season. After June 23, he will be considered an unrestricted free agent.

News of Millsap’s intention was first reported by Yahoo on Monday.

It makes financial sense for Millsap not to opt in to the player option, and it’s long been a foregone conclusion that he would decline it. The 32-year-old is eligible to receive a maximum contract that could reach $205 million as a free agent. Millsap is eligible for a projected five-year, $205 million contract from the Hawks. He is eligible for a projected four-year, $152 million contract from another team should he choose to leave the Hawks.

The June 23 date is important because Millsap could get seriously injured between now and the deadline. If his playing career should become in jeopardy, he would certainly want the guarantee of $21 million.

Hawks ownership was informed of Millsap’s intent to let the deadline pass and become an unrestricted free agent in a meeting last week, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Millsap all but announced his decision not to opt in to his player option earlier this month in his exit interview following the Hawks’ season-ending playoff loss to the Wizards.

“I think we all know the answer to do that,” Millsap said when asked directly about his intention. He later added, “Eventually I probably will opt out, yes. But I want to be here. I think talks have been pretty good, so we’ll see what happens.”

Hawks principal owner Tony Ressler has publicly stated his desire to re-sign Millsap. Ressler said the team would make “every effort imaginable” to keep the team’s best player.

Millsap was the Hawks’ leading scorer, at 18.1 points per game, during the regular season. He also led the team in minutes (34.0) and ranked second in rebounds (7.7), assists (3.7), steals (1.30) and blocks (0.9). He made his fourth consecutive All-Star team in February, all since joining the Hawks after a lengthy career with the Jazz.

Millsap is about to receive the most significant contract of his 11-year NBA career. He has made just over $72 million over the course of his career. The $19 million he earned last season was nearly $10 million more than his previous career-high annual salary. Millsap is in line to earn an average of $41 million over the course of a new maximum deal with the Hawks.

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