As expected, Paul Millsap reportedly plans to explore free agency this summer

Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap, the face of the franchise and free agent to be, is all smiles. (AP)
Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap, the face of the franchise and free agent-to-be, is all smiles. (AP)

If you stood to earn a 67 percent raise at your job, wouldn’t you take steps to make that happen?

In Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap’s case, that raise means an extra $14.3 million next year alone, so he plans to decline his player option for 2017-18, a formality this summer all but confirmed by a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter (yes, that Adam Schefter, the intrepid NFL reporter) on Wednesday.

By forgoing the final year of the three-year, $60.2 million deal he signed with the Hawks in 2015, Millsap could make as much as $35.7 million in 2017-18 — with 7.5 percent raises over the ensuing four years if he re-signs in Atlanta, or 4.5 percent raises over the next three years if he goes elsewhere. Even if he does get a max contract offer come July, the four-time All-Star will receive something close to it.

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By opting not to trade Millsap at the deadline, despite reportedly shopping him for a hefty asking price, the Hawks are banking on that guaranteed extra $53 million giving them an advantage in free agency. Of course, they’ve also risked losing Millsap, like DeMarre Carroll and Al Horford before him. Whether Millsap’s reported intent to “look” at other teams this coming July is an indication he might actually leave the city he’s called home for the past four years, or simply a negotiating ploy aimed at getting as much of that extra guaranteed scratch, remains to be seen.

Either way, we should not be surprised Millsap expects to opt out this summer. After Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer silenced incessant trade rumors in the days before the February deadline, telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “He’s not going anywhere,” it was Millsap who responded publicly, “It’s refreshing to know I’m not going anywhere and I’ll be on this team until the end of the year.”

Until the end of the year.

After their historic 60-win 2014-15 campaign and the franchise’s first Eastern Conference finals appearance since moving to Atlanta, the Hawks have been in steady decline ever since. They’re currently 37-34, good for fifth in the East, and just two games up on the conference’s eighth and final playoff spot. They’ve lost five straight and are owners of one of the league’s five worst offenses. And:

This has not been the greatest showcase for a 32-year-old soon-to-be free agent who’s made $90.5 million in his career and might be entering the “more interested in a ring” portion of his career.

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This is also the reality of playing for the Hawks, a team on the verge of its 10th straight trip to the playoffs, with just one appearance beyond the second round, that perpetually operates from the NBA’s dreaded middle. A team that lost key free agents each of the past two summers and has huge money committed to a mediocre core of Dwight Howard, Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schroder for at least the next two seasons — before Tim Hardaway Jr. is due a hefty raise this summer, too.

This raises the issue of whether it’s wise for Atlanta to commit max money to a guy who would be 37 years old by the end of that contract. Millsap is still playing at an All-Star level, “no sizzle” and all, working on four straight invites to the game, and has been a model of health in his career. He’s built like a rock, and he makes them better. But how far has he taken them, and where are they headed?

Both sides have a whole lot of questions to answer this summer, and that always seemed inevitable.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!