The Milwaukee Buck’s biggest acquisition in free agency this summer wasn’t Brook Lopez or Ersan Ilyasova, it was Mike Budenholzer. The former coach of the year winner is a major upgrade from their last coach, Jason Kidd. The Bucks last season lacked a consistent structure and identity; they mainly went as Giannis Antetokounmpo went. With Bud at the helm, Giannis will finally have a highly-regarded coach to help guide the Bucks through the first round of the playoffs.
The 2014-15 season Budenholzer won Coach of the Year the Atlanta Hawks won 60 games, made it the conference finals, and sent four players to the all-star game despite not having a true “top guy.” Their system was based on ball and player movement that led to one of the more balanced attacks that season. Since that season, the Hawks made it to the playoffs two more times despite slowly losing a few of their key pieces. The Hawks spent this past season tanking and parted ways with Bud – who had no interest in a rebuild – when it ended. Once available on the market, Budenholzer became the hottest name out there. After a flirtation with the Toronto Raptors, he chose to take the Bucks job.
The Bucks lacked shooting last season, which hampered a lot of what they could do offensively. Shooting was a priority this season to create more space for Giannis, and they hopefully got that with the additions of Lopez Ilyasova. With Antetokounmpo’s special skills, Bud can use him in many different ways. In Atlanta, he used a lot of actions at the elbows, with dribble-handoffs (DHO) to create shots.
Here is a piece of Hawks’ motion, the action starts with the ball entered into the elbow with a double staggered on the weak side. While the player is coming off the double pindown, the big man at the elbow initiates a DHO with that player. The second clip is a variation of the same action, with the wing player curling around the first pick in the double-stagger action, and the picker coming off the pindown for the DHO that turns into a pick-and-roll.
With Giannis’ versatility, Bud can put him at the elbow where he can run the DHO action with Khris Middleton or Eric Bledsoe, which would open up the possibility of him faking the hand-off and turning straight to the rim. He could also be positioned in the corner to come off the double stagger action, receive the handoff and turn the corner to the rim. There are several different actions the Bucks can use off of this action.
This is another Atlanta play that could be even more potent in Milwaukee. The Hawks run a cross-screen into a side pick-and-roll, and while that action is happening, the screener comes off the double stagger screen. This play has a lot of actions and with the Bucks’ personnel, Bud can tweak it. Middleton can set the cross screen for Giannis and come off the double stagger for three. Giannis and Bledsoe could run the pick-and-roll, or Giannis can just post up on the block giving Bledsoe the option to either pass to him or Middleton coming off the pin downs.
Budenholzer has never coached a talent like Giannis; not in the five years with the Hawks, or the 16 he spent in San Antonio as an assistant. With Giannis, he could use him at the elbows, run him off DHOs, let him run the offense, or employ him as a decoy at times to get open looks for guys like Middleton.
This coaching hire was crucial for the Bucks. They have a young superstar with MVP talent under contract for three more years, so they need to nail this one. By acquiring the best available coach on the market, they’ve done just that.
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