Paul Millsap’s draft-day slip was a second round gift to the Jazz

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

Jazz forward Paul Millsap’s draft-day experience was probably about as nerve-racking as a turbulent airplane ride–the kind in which you’re innocently nibbling on peanuts when suddenly the oxygen masks drop and dangle in front of you.

Oh, crap.

Millsap must’ve been fearful for his basketball life on draft day. It wasn’t yet time to scream mayday, but 46 players had already been selected and the curious surname, Millsap, had yet to be uttered.

And he’d left college early for this?

But Millsap’s airplane leveled out on the next selection when the Utah Jazz drafted the Louisiana Tech forward with the 47th pick.

And what a gem he’s turned out to be for the Jazz–a team that has rebuilt itself into a bona fide winner years faster than anyone thought possible.

If Andrei Kirilenko doesn’t return to the Jazz next season–and the Jazz’s max-money player might not–Millsap might want to consider donning Kirilenko’s famous nickname.

There’s a new AK-47 in town!

Picked at No. 47, Millsap has been a powerful weapon in Utah’s arsenal. And while the fate of the Jazz will ultimately be decided by emerging stars Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer in the years to come, it’s always a bonus to have a guy like Millsap in the lineup.

All year, he’s been the darling of the sports media, and yes, I am jumping on his bandwagon. I don’t know how many times I heard an announcer say, genuinely astonished, “How did this Millsap kid slip all the way to number 47?”

The answer to that much-posed question is difficult to pinpoint. Looking back, selecting Millsap somewhere in the middle of the first round seemed like a no-brainer. At Louisiana Tech, he became the only player in NCAA history to lead the nation in rebounds for three consecutive years.

Maybe he was overlooked because he played in the under-publicized WAC, or perhaps it’s because heart isn’t a quality that always finds itself onto an NBA scouting sheet.

Whatever the reason, the Jazz organization is thrilled to have a dynamic player such as Millsap aboard.

So often, players feel the need to reach a point quota in order to feel good about themselves. But Millsap seems to have embraced his role as a scrappy and intelligent rebounder who knows how to position his body and at times seems to have powerful vacuum cleaners for hands.

He is a refreshing burst of enthusiasm in a league where many players (I can think of a few on the Jazz) approach the game with a ho-hum attitude. European Jazz players, I’m looking in your direction.

Millsap is not only a hustler, but his timing and his nose for the ball are impeccable. Both traits seem to elude so many talented athletes, but in Millsap, they are there in abundance.

At a modest height of 6-feet 8-inches, Millsap comes down with rebounds against seven-footers.

In future seasons, he’ll be an interesting option off the bench when the Jazz want to frustrate the opposition.

And he’s still a kid. He could still develop a dependable 15-foot jump shot.

I must say I’m a little smitten.

There’s something about an effective role player that really gets my heart pumping.

Millsap for president in 2008.

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