Going into the 2013-14 season, many did not know what to expect from the newly hired Mike Budenholzer. He had been an assistant under Gregg Popovich for 16 years, but had never been a head coach at the NBA level. This left a lot of doubt in the minds of many. However, after a relatively successful first season as the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks, I think it is safe to say the front office made the right decision to give Budenholzer his first chance at being a head coach.
Given the situations that arose this season, not many coaches would have prevailed like he did. Budenholzer lost arguably his best player when Al Horford went down with a season-ending shoulder injury against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Without the former NBA All-Star, Atlanta struggled at first, but with coach Bud at the helm there was nothing to worry about. Under his offensive philosophy, Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap emerged as stars after Horford’s departure. These two carried the team on their back once their teammate went down, and the result was a well-deserved playoff berth for the Hawks.
They might have scratched and clawed their way to only the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, but this team could have easily laid down without their starting center controlling the paint. Instead, under the leadership of Budenholzer the team stuck together and fought hard despite everyone writing them off, which is a sign of a great coach. The fight Atlanta showed in order to even make the playoffs proves that its players have bought into what their head coach is trying to do here and this could mean great things are on the way for this franchise. After the effort this team gave in the first round as well, you have to be excited about what the future holds with coach Bud running the show.
With Horford’s return and the offseason ahead, the Hawks should only get better. This is especially true if the team were to add someone such as Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Love to the roster. It might be wishful thinking at best, but add one of them to the mix and Atlanta would become immediate contenders for a title.
However, even if the Hawks can’t bring one of them here, which is more than likely the case, they still have a good chance at being one of the top teams next year. The system coach Budenholzer runs in Atlanta is very similar to the San Antonio Spurs and that means the Hawks don’t have to bring in a star to be successful. They can continue to build through the draft and keep adding pieces in order to become a complete team, which is exactly what they’ll need to do if Atlanta wants to dethrone the Miami Heat.