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3 reasons the Denver Nuggets should try to replace Paul Millsap with Tobias Harris in free agency

Paul Millsap, Tobias Harris

The Denver Nuggets are having a banner season, making the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 season and advancing to the second round despite having a young team. Among the few longtime veterans on the roster is Paul Millsap, the four-time All-Star who was brought in to bring stability to an otherwise inexperienced team.

However, the Nuggets will have to decide whether to keep Millsap or head off in a different direction this offseason. He has a massive $30 million team option for next season, which is a hefty price.

Rather than stay the course with an aging veteran, it’s best for the franchise to pursue another free agent this July, namely Tobias Harris of the Philadelphia 76ers. It would take some maneuvering to make it happen because of cap space issues, but never say never.

Here are three reasons why the Nuggets should replace Millsap with Harris this summer.

3. Millsap has a history of injuries

The last two years haven’t been too kind to the former All-Star forward, who missed significant time on the court thanks to a series of injuries. Since signing a contract with the Nuggets two years ago, Millsap has played in only 108 of a possible 164 regular-season games (he has played in every playoff game this year). That’s not a great sign that he will be healthier in the next few years, especially considering he is now 34 years old.

It would be too much to expect from Millsap that he can bounce back with an All-Star year after not making it to the NBA’s midseason spectacle the past two seasons.

In contrast, Harris has missed only two games in the past three seasons. Durability counts a lot, especially during negotiations when considering whether to invest in one player or decide against it. In this case, Harris is head and shoulders above Millsap.

2. Harris is younger than Millsap

Another huge factor for the Nuggets to consider is the age difference between the two.

At 34 years old, Millsap is near the twilight of his career. Meanwhile, Harris is just getting started at 26 years of age.

With the Nuggets already committed to around $90 million in guaranteed salaries without counting Millsap, they would be within luxury tax territory if Millsap stays. Denver will definitely be thinking long and hard about the big man’s future with the team.

Rather than keep Millsap despite his contributions in the locker room and on the floor, the Nuggets would be wise to look elsewhere to invest that kind of money in a younger player like Harris. Besides, the latter is also quite the model citizen, a good locker room influence and has been well-liked by teammates wherever he has been.

Needless to say, Harris’ age and durability give him the leg up over his more seasoned counterpart.

1. Millsap is on the decline

Here are Millsap’s averages in the two years he has been with the Nuggets:

2017-18: 14.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.2 blocks, 46.4 FG%, 34.5 3PT%, 69.6 FT%

2018-19: 12.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.8 blocks, 48.4 FG%, 36.5 3P%, 72.7 FT%

Contrast his stats with Harris’ own stats below:

2017-18: 18.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.4 blocks, 46.0 FG%, 41.1 3P%, 82.9 FT%

2018-19: 20.0 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.5 blocks, 48.7 FG%, 39.7 3P%, 86.6 FT%

While Millsap has been declining the past two seasons, Harris has been getting better. If the Nuggets were to approach Millsap’s contract situation with an open mind, it’s a no-brainer that Harris is the better choice between the two.

At the same time, Harris would make the Nuggets a more complete team than they already are. He can play both forward spots and excel at each one. Plus, his 3-point shooting is a must for this Nuggets team, which was tied for 17th in the league in 3-point percentage and 3-pointers made in the regular season. Though they’ve had success despite their lack of production from downtown, it could come to haunt them in the playoffs, where they are shooting a less-than-ideal 34.8 percent.

Millsap is bringing that percentage down, as he is a woeful 24 percent from deep this postseason. Meanwhile, Harris is knocking down a healthy 44.1 percent of his attempts from long distance.

It’s not a difficult decision for the Nuggets this July when free agents are eligible to sign with any team they want. Rather than keep a player whose best years are behind him, Denver needs to consider signing one whose career is on the rise.

That’s Tobias Harris.