Photo Courtesy of clutchpoints.com
By Glen Ivol
Change is coming to Milwaukee. The Bucks went through two coaches, ended up as the 7-seed in a decimated Eastern Conference, and lost in 7 games in the opening round to a star-less Celtics team. There was something about the performance that just begged is that the best they could be. Even with a player in Giannis Antetokounmpo on the cusp of superstardom, the team just seemed like they were lacking something. Enter Mike Budenholzer.
Budenholzer was surprisingly allowed to leave the Atlanta Hawks, but it seems to be more of a parting of ways then a firing. The Bucks and Coach Bud seemed destined to be each other’s next match once the Bucks were bounced from the playoffs and as mentioned, Budenholzer left the Hawks. Milwaukee did their due diligence in the interview process, even interviewing another coach from the Gregg Popovich tree – Becky Hammon who came with rave reviews – but eventually settled on the right coach for them. Budenholzer was the head coach in Atlanta for the previous five seasons after spending close to two decades on the bench next to Gregg Popovich and brings the experience and smarts to Milwaukee that they’ve been in search of.
Budenholzer originally met with the Phoenix Suns but left with no decision to take the job. That was telling, as it showed Budenholzer wanted to go to a contender. The Bucks were the most attractive job because not only do they have a star in Giannis, but they a lot of young pieces that were mismanaged previously with room to grow. The star power is important, but so is the surrounding cast – Budenholzer knows better than most about how well a team with no star can perform in the regular-season only to fall flat on their face in the playoffs. The pieces in Milwaukee are interesting with the likes of Khris Middleton, Thon Maker, Eric Bledsoe and Malcom Brogdon surrounding Giannis. The depth isn’t overwhelming but the potential is there, especially with Budenholzer running the show.
In Milwaukee, Budenholzer won’t face the same situation he did in Atlanta as he will have the best player he’s ever had on his roster that happens to be a top-15 talent in the league. A player of his talents presents a coach of Budenholzer skills an infinite number possibilities, however, Budenholzer’s key will be to form a suitable roster around Giannis, something that the previous coaches failed to do so and we’ve seen gone wrong throughout the league (see: George, Paul and Westbrook, Russell).
It was a strange season under first Jason Kidd and then Joe Prunty in Milwaukee. With Kidd at the helm, the Bucks were a top-10 offense but a bottom-10 defense. When Prunty took over, they ended up in the middle for both. The hope is that Budenholzer will elevate this team to new levels, but he might not have that much help incoming. The most important decision facing this team is what to do with former number 2 overall pick Jabari Parker, who is a restricted free agent. Letting him walk doesn’t do much in terms of cap since they are already about $3 million over the expected cap of $101 million. The team has $30 million of its cap tied up in three players better reserved for the role/bench player minutes – John Henson, Matthew Dellavedova, and Tony Snell. Again, it’s going to be crucial for Budenholzer to take this team to the next level through his system and player development.
Giannis will continue to flourish and grow into a star, no matter who is seated at the head of the bench. However, for him to take the leap that we all thought he would this year, Giannis will need to rely on Budenholzer to bring some 2015 magic to rest of the roster in Milwaukee.
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