The Hawks’ Budenholzer: No longer flavor of the month

Coach Bud is not impressed with what he sees. (AP photo/John Amis)

Coach Bud is not impressed. (AP photo/John Amis)

Last spring, Mike Budenholzer was named the NBA’s coach of the year, drawing 67 of the 130 first-place votes. He finished fourth, albeit laughably so, in the voting for executive of the year, commanding four of 30 first-place votes in that category.

Question: How many votes — even third-place ones — is Budenholzer apt to draw for anything this season?

When you jump from 38 to 60 wins, everybody loves you and all your mighty works. (Even if your only significant “executive” move was to trade rookie Adreian Payne to Minnesota for a lottery-protected Round 1 pick.) When you plunge from 46-12 after 58 games to 31-27, you’re no longer flavor of the month. But there’s more involved here than the vagaries of adulation.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the man who once had all the answers appears stumped. The Hawks’ only successful major move since Budenholzer became de facto (and now official) team president has been to keep Paul Millsap as a free agent, and even that hasn’t had the desired effect. New ownership bet on continuity. Tony Ressler has gotten rather less than he expected.

Monday’s game against the 49-5 Golden State Warriors should have been SRO. (It was announced as a sellout, but the Hawks announce morning shootarounds as sellouts.) In truth, there were a surprising number of empty seats. After rising to 17th among the NBA’s 30 teams in attendance last season, the Hawks — even with their incorporation of lime green into their color scheme — have slid to 23rd the year after. They’re back to being a civic afterthought.

Much of that has to do with their record. It was unreasonable to think they’d be quite as good, but they’ve been worse than almost anybody imagined. They’re on pace to go 44-38, which is exactly how they fared in Years 1 and 3 under Larry Drew, who won no coaching awards.

So, a year later, here’s what they have: A president who had no background in presidential matters but fell into the job on an interim basis due to most unusual circumstances and got to keep it because new management was intoxicated by the sweet smell of success, and a coach whose master plan — Pace and Space! — has already reached the point of diminishing returns.

Budenholzer was handed a roster built by Danny Ferry. So long as that roster was intact, everything was hunky dory. To the coach’s credit, the Hawks have actually played slightly better defense this year than last. But the offense — the pace-and-space stuff — has gone from sixth-best in efficiency, per Basketball-Reference, to 18th. Ouch.

(Oh, and they’re still terrible at rebounding.)

Take away DeMarre Carroll, slash Kyle Korver’s effect by two-thirds, cut Jeff Teague’s production by a fourth, and what do you have? An offense of misfit toys. Also a reminder that, in the NBA, scheme is nice but it’s the players who matter. As was revealed in the playoffs, the 60-win Hawks weren’t exactly a team of top-shelf talent. If we credit Budenholzer for making that talent look better than it was, we must debit him — what with him being the president and all — for not effecting any sort of offseason upgrade.

Were Budenholzer still just the coach, you’d have to think the Hawks were in decent shape: Get him the right players and he’ll do well by them. But he’s not just the coach. He’s also the guy in charge of finding the right players. And what if he’s the wrong man for that?

Further Hawks reading:

The free-falling Hawks are in real trouble.

More than a team, the Warriors are a sensation.

Dwight Howard to the Hawks? Wouldn’t be prudent.

8 questions the Hawks must ask themselves.

The Hawks have gone from soaring to slogging.

The Hawks shouldn’t trade Horford — or Teague.

A year later, the Hawks are only pretty good.

Reader Comments 0

31 comments
adarian652
adarian652

Why haven't the Hawks signed a player for the open roster spot?

vpdii
vpdii

Wait a minute......didn't Ferry bring in Coach Bud? The Hawks seem to have done pretty well without Ferry last year. The problem with the Hawks have nothing to do with Ferry not being here, who is so good that he is still looking for a GM job, but the issue is with the other teams making adjustments while the Hawks continue to do the same things over and over again, It is a shame that Coach Bud hasn't figured out what lineup works  at this point in the season. He seems clueless on what to do with Teague and Shroeder, or Korver and Hardaway Jr......he is destroying Edy as the guy will go for weeks without seeing any action and then gets sent to the d-league to stay warm.....for what? Edy needs work and the Hawks are not going to do any better than making the playoffs and getting embarrassed again....so Edy needs to be playing anyway because right now he is kinda soft. We all saw the deficiencies early on when the Hawks were being run off the court by teams like Minnesota, Boston and the Knicks, but Coach Bud did what he always do....stand pat and hope for the best.

Joel Callins
Joel Callins

The Hawks just need to settle down and improve their first half defense, first half offensive efficiency (assists), protect the basketball and increase rebounding and they'll be fine. If they do this, they will no longer be playing from behind the whole game. They can use this time to prepare for their playoff run. Go Hawks.

Eric Gant
Eric Gant

Can we bring back Danny Ferry?

Jm73
Jm73

I think Bradley pushed for Ferry's ouster too.

Big Wally
Big Wally

@Jm73 All the media did, because it was the politically correct thing to do.  You won't see them admit it now though, because it would force them to admit they made a mistake.

Rhetoric
Rhetoric

The biggest mistake was not keeping Danny Ferry.

Jm73
Jm73

Wow. How many firings have you espoused in the last 12 months? I can no longer keep track. Incredible.

khd713
khd713

The truth is, the Hawks have been playing 44-38 ball pretty much since the 2015 All-Star break. That meaningless exhibition was a disaster for this team and seemed to suck the life out of our lineup. I'm inclined to agree with those who say this dropoff isn't Bud's doing, and I'm not sure there's anything anyone else (Ferry) would have done differently. But who knows? The hallmark of a great GM is the ability to make something out of nothing, to turn a profitable deal when it looks like there are no deals to be made. A great GM gets creative when the times call for it and makes people say, "Wow, how'd he think of that?" We sure haven't seen any of that kind of creativity lately, and maybe that's on Bud.

vpdii
vpdii

"All I do is lose lose lose lose lose lose lose no matter what"......

dirtybirdrises
dirtybirdrises

The absence of a decent shooting gaurd is the biggest deficiency I see with this team.. as good as Korver shot the ball last year, teams figured him out as a one trick pony in the playoffs.. add that to his injury and Korver should be coming off the bench as a spot up shooter... the Hawks have been playing 4 on 4 on offense most of the year.. he can't dribble, can't push the ball after a rebound and can't create his own shot when coming off screens.. if he can't get an open 3 off the screen or in transition, he's useless on the floor.. Bud tried to upgrade the position with Hardaway Jr, but shouldnt have used a 1st rd pick for him.. they still need a shooting guard that can create his own shot and get to the free throw line in the half court.. shouldn't be so hard to find.. it is the NBA after all

Suwaneetown
Suwaneetown

I enjoy arm-chair quarterbacking as much as the next guy but  At the end of the day, I'm not sure what Bud could have done differently given the cap situation.  I do think that Hardaway will ultimately be a decent player for us so I'm no longer pouting about the lost draft pick.  No way to keep Carroll and I probably would have chosen Milsap between the two.  I thought the splitter deal would play out better and might have if he'd have been healthy.  Nothing Bud could do about Korver's drop off.  One could argue that he should be able to get more consistency out of Teague.  Assuming he's been healthy.  That's really my only gripe.  They really do miss Carrols intangibles more than anyone imagined.  His ability to create space and move without the ball have been sorely missed.  Along with his length on defense at the 3.  I'm really scratching my head as to what they should do with Horford.  Love the guy but hate the thought of a max contract for someone on the downside of his career.

SomewherenSGa
SomewherenSGa

I knew the Coach/GM was going to really hurt the Hawks. You would never have seen the trade made if Danny Ferry was still GM so get off your high horse an go get Ferry back!

Douglas Roberts
Douglas Roberts

Theres talent there so I don't think you blow up the whole ship. Its an unpopular choice but I think Hawks need to bring in Howard. Atlanta hasn't had a decent big man since Motumbo left town lol.

jdcigar
jdcigar

First of all, I am tired of hearing what Danny Ferry did.  He mostly assembled a bunch of spare parts, who are good but not great.  He inherited Teague and Horford and the only draft pick of note is Dennis S.  Honestly the best thing he did for us was to get Brooklyn to take Joe Johnson, which was no small feat I must admit.


Coach Bud did a great job of getting the team to buy in to his system last year and for whatever reason has not been able to do so this year.  Obviously missing Carroll's energy hurts us this year as well as Korver not being close to the player of last year.


He hasn't shown us anything good as a GM so far.

Tony Kirby
Tony Kirby

The Hawks have a real point guard in Schroeder. If they can just get Tavares developed, watch out. The Hawks will get it together

ASchultz54
ASchultz54

Although the Hawks won't admit it, part of that attendance drop is the 8:07 start times ... for those of us living a good distance away, that's an 11:30 to midnight back home time.

tmerriwe
tmerriwe

@ASchultz54 This is a very accurate statement.  Atlanta sports team typically have late arriving crowds.  This certainly holds true for the Hawks.  Currently, crowds for Hawks games are arriving 8:25-8:45. Changing it back to 7:30 would be in the best interest of the Hawks.

Tim Rancher
Tim Rancher

Come on now, did you guys really think the Hawks would repeat that once in a lifetime season?

Brian Walton
Brian Walton

We need help rebounding and shooting. Korver is having a bad year. Baze and Horford are undersized. We have a lot of cracks in our armor. So do we completely rebuild or do we try to salvage some of what we have?

DeWayne Anderson
DeWayne Anderson

we need better talent coach can only do so much with what he has takes more than couple years to turn team into what he wants

Mike Morton
Mike Morton

The Hawks need a real point guard & a center.

TPCP
TPCP

Where is Danny Ferry?

AtlantaSportsVictory
AtlantaSportsVictory

You neglected to mention the trade to get Tiago Splitter, which turned into a disaster for this season. The Spurs might give Bud some exec of the years votes just for that move. 

Stinger2
Stinger2

So if (as you said) he is the wrong man for finding the right players, who is the right man Mark? 

ATLLAEV
ATLLAEV

@MarkBradleyAJC The Joe Johnson trade never materialized. All we got was cap space which we didn't feel. Jenkins Payne,& Lucas are gone