While it’s not yet official, Adrian Wojnarowski reported yesterday that the Milwaukee Bucks have agreed to a contract with Mike Budenholzer. The decision, by far the most important of the franchise’s modern era, has ripple effects near and far. Mitchell and Adam sat down to cover their opinions on the move and what it means for Milwaukee moving forward.
Adam: So Milwaukee finally has their man. Personally, I’m pretty content. Milwaukee has a capable man at the rudder, someone with a proven track record of developing the league’s most valuable commodity, and a clear upgrade over Jason Kidd. I know you’re feeling only content though, not enthusiastic about it.
Mitchell: It’s fine. This is fine. /tearfully takes down collage of cool Nick Nurse and Chris Finch offensive sets. But that’s just it: Budenholzer is fine. He’s safe. He’s a classic “low risk” candidate, because he has a track record to speak of, and hasn’t coached himself out of the league.
I’m not mad. I’m just...disappointed.
Adam: But Da, I mean Mitchell, I have a tough time with being discontent over a safe hire at this point. Like most people, I’m generally in the camp that this team should make the kind of moves that point towards potential championship contention, i.e. home run swings. With this one though, the situation felt too precarious. Miss, and Giannis is likely gone, torpedoing fans into greater misery. The most important thing at this moment is giving Giannis reasons to stay and I trust Bud more with that task than some of the other admittedly attractive names out there, including your two poster boys.
Mitchell: I don’t think you’re wrong, I just take a different angle on it. I agree that retaining Giannis is paramount. Where I differ is how to get there. A coach with a clear vision on how to fully weaponize Giannis wouldn’t just make him happy and validate his place among the NBA elite, but would also propel the Bucks towards winning in ways that other teams can not easily counter.
We can agree on this, right? The team will undoubtedly be improved next season. Bud is a solid coach to guide this team to 50+ wins. Can he edge them out over Toronto, or Philly, or Cleveland? (I’m ignoring Boston for now because they’re gonna be filthy next season.)
Adam: I completely agree he can guide the team above that vaunted 50+ win plateau. As for whether he can take them above those other teams, I honestly don’t know. His Hawks teams faltered in the Playoffs, but they also seemed bereft of talent compared to this squad. The one place I do sympathize with your view is managing fan expectations for a coach that were lower than ever after Kidd’s tenure. Bud is such a clear upgrade, but it’s a far different situation than someone like Toronto, who found themselves on the precipice but ultimately feel they need someone new to take them over the hump. Maybe you’re right, Bud will flame out in the second or third rounds a few times, and expectations will be rejiggered to what they should be for Milwaukee to hire the right man.
Mitchell: The big difference is Giannis. A player of his caliber changes the entire equation. Bud has never, ever, had someone on that level, save for perhaps Tim Duncan during his time under Pop in SA. Can Bud handle building a system around a superstar? Hopefully they discussed it over breakfast smoothies.
Adam: Ha, Bud seemed like a guy who could wring talent out of anyone on his roster though, and while maximizing Giannis is key, it feels like Milwaukee really needs a significant upgrade from its young guys and role players. The idea of letting Bud’s staff known for developing wings get his hands on Middleton, a guy fans view as perennially improperly utilized, is tantalizing.
Mitchell: You’re absolutely right, and that’s precisely what will move the Bucks from the NBA’s third tier to the second. That’s significant! But is that as high as Bud can take them? I don’t know. And it’s not like I know that a Nurse or Finch or Becky Hammon or anybody else WOULD have a higher ceiling, but it’s hard to resist imagining what unique qualities they could bring that Bud might not.
But, I digress. The Bucks should hearken back to the John Hammond days and focus on “going from good to good,” right? This move does that, and it should satisfy fans who were beside themselves about how poorly coached the Bucks have been lately.
Adam: It certainly will short term. Your earlier point gets us to the real question though, talent deficiency. If nothing else, maybe Bud’s staff can revive or improve the trade stock of guys like Tony Snell, Malcolm Brogdon or even Khris Middleton? Those are all quality players I want on the Bucks roster, but if Bud can take their play to the next level that another team covets them in return for a better, discontent star, that’s a huge win for the hire.
Mitchell: Now we’re talking. Let’s just say that Giannis stays basically the same (which is extremely good!) and Khris is roughly what you got last year. Can Bud get Brogdon in the right places to make an impact? Can he keep Snell’s confidence high enough to keep shooting? Can he excise some of Eric Bledsoe’s bad habits? Can he get Playoff Thon Maker to show up in the regular season, or D.J. Wilson to show up at all? These are crucial questions, but I’ll admit that I’m comfortable with Budenholzer being the one to answer.
Adam: I think that’s what has me most firmly in the Bud camp is his track record of player development. Then again, there were plenty of conversations poo-pooing any credit to Kidd for player development. Does Bud deserve the credit we didn’t lend to Kidd? I tend to think so, and reportedly bringing along his whole staff certainly gives me more confidence that will be the case.
Mitchell: Is this the part of the convo where we geek out over Darvin Ham’s return? Because I am stoked for another serving of Ham Slamwich, even if he’s wearing a suit instead of a jersey. But the lingering question: is Sean Sweeney is out, who takes over as the new Giannis Whisperer?
Adam: Darvin Ham deserves all the fond welcomes he will get at Goolsby’s over the coming years. Friend and all-knowing basketball seer Dean Maniatt mentioned yesterday he thinks Ben Sullivan from their staff may take over that role, who I know literally nothing about, but it is a relevant question considering his apparent fondness for Sweeney.
Mitchell: Lots of questions remain. Bud is a comfortable option to take a lead role in answering them. Maybe he’s the best, maybe someone else could’ve pushed the team further. Maybe I just need to give him some credit and avoid treating him like a retread? He’s only been a head coach with Atlanta, to be fair, and only left when they started rebuilding. So things are looking up!