The Atlanta Hawks hired Mike Budenholzer in the offseason, and he should turn out to be an excellent hire by GM Danny Ferry.
The Hawks were looking for someone to replace Larry Drew, who took the Hawks to the NBA playoffs the previous year, but could never seem to get his teams over the hump. Drew was not a bad coach by any means and posted winning records every year as the coach of the Hawks. However, Drew could not get his teams past the first round of the postseason in the last two years. Therefore, the Hawks wanted to get a coach who had experience in dealing with the playoffs.
After spending 18 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, Budenholzer decided to take on a new challenge when he took the head coaching job with the Hawks. In San Antonio, he was an assistant coach for Gregg Popovich and a really good one at that. Budenholzer was a vital part in the development of players, specifically international players such as Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
With the help of Budenholzer, both Parker and Ginobili became not only All-Stars, but champions as well. If Budenholzer developed the talent before, he can certainly do it again.
The best thing that Budenholzer brings to the table is his championship experience. As an assistant under Popovich, he witnessed four NBA Championships, garnering an idea for how to be successful in the NBA. If there was one thing Popovich was a master at, it was his offensive schemes. He believed in the idea of spreading the ball around to the open man, instead of forcing his players to go one-on-one all the time.
In order for his offense to be successful, the pick-and-roll had to work and players needed to be unselfish. Budenholzer wants to implement this same offense here in Atlanta, and he has the pieces to do it.
With Jeff Teague and Al Horford already on the roster, Budenholzer has the right guys to make his offensive scheme work. Just look at the way that his new offensive scheme has already achieved success this season. The implementation of the pick-and-roll with Teague and Horford makes this duo one of the best pick-and-roll pairs in the NBA today. Teague’s game has gone to a new level, and Horford consistently knocks down the mid-range jumper, making Budenholzer’s offense a tough one to defend.
However, the role players are the ones that are greatly benefiting. Players such as DeMarre Carroll, Kyle Korver and Cartier Martin seem to get more open shots than ever and have also found increasing roles on the team. If the offense continues to perform at this level under Budenholzer, the Hawks will find themselves in the playoffs.
While making the playoffs may be a great accomplishment for the Hawks this year, the team wants to go further than just the first round. With Budenholzer, I believe the Hawks have found their coach that can take this team to the next level in the NBA Playoffs. His experience in the playoffs with the Spurs and coaching philosophy are just the thing the Hawks need to get over the hump.