Blazers sign Millsap to offer sheet

Portland is making a push for Utah forward Paul Millsap.

The Portland Trail Blazers elected Friday not to wait on trade possibilities, deciding instead to offer Utah Jazz restricted free agent Paul Millsap a four-year contract worth an estimated $32 million-to-$36 million, according to sources with knowledge of the Blazers’ plans.

This is more compelling than your average, run-of-the-mill restricted free agent signing because a few days ago the Blazers were rumored to be involved in a three-way trade involving Chicago and Utah where the Bulls would have acquired Carlos Boozer, sending Kirk Hinrich to Portland and Tyrus Thomas to Utah.

But those trade talks stalled in part because the Bulls were not prepared to surrender Hinrich and Tyrus Thomas (who would have been Utah-bound) without getting back promising Portland guard Jerryd Bayless in return in addition to Boozer.

Since the Blazers didn’t want to give up Bayless, they’ve made the decision to extend an offer to Millsap, which puts the pressure on the Jazz to move Boozer. The contract is frontloaded, so if Utah were to have both players on the roster it would put the team deep into luxury tax territory.

Another interesting thing about this move by the Blazers is that Millsap plays the same position as LaMarcus Aldridge, so either they (1) plan on playing Aldridge at center, (2) plan on bringing Millsap off the bench or (3) aren’t optimistic that they can keep Aldridge, who is eligible for an extension this summer. The bad news for the Blazers is that the Jazz have seven days to decide whether or not they’ll match the offer, and during that time Portland’s cap space is tied up, so they can’t make an offer to another free agent. But other than Lamar Odom, Allen Iverson and Andre Miller, there isn’t much out there in the way of unrestricted free agents, so it doesn’t make sense to hold onto the cap space if they aren’t going to use it elsewhere.

If the Blazers can pry away Millsap for $8-$9 million per season, it will be a great move. That’s a good value for a young power forward has proven that he has a potential to be an All-Star-caliber player. But I’d expect that the Jazz will be able to trade Boozer and get a good young player (of Tyrus Thomas’s caliber) in return. There are a number of teams that are interested, including the Bulls, Pistons, Heat and Knicks.

I’d also expect this deal to bring David Lee’s contract expectations back to Earth. I think he and Millsap are about on the same level value-wise, with Millsap having a small edge due to his ability to score in the post.

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