Archives For Mike Budenholzer

A great defense adapts to any and every sort of offensive attack. Coach Budenholzer and staff will keep their foot on the necks of this young team all season long on giving a strong effort defensively. Guys like Taurean Prince, Kent Bazemore and Dewayne Dedmon are in the starting lineup for that very reason. However, even as disciplined as those pieces are, how do you counter point guards with an athletic gene we all wish we possessed like Russell Westbrook and John Wall? Now add Dennis Smith to that list.

In Thursday night’s108-94 preseason finale loss to the Dallas Mavericks they were reminded what problems it can cause.

“It really changes the dynamic of the game when you have a scoring point guard, an aggressive point guard,” said Kent Bazemore. “Because you have to be honest. They have a good team. A well coached team and they execute to a T. He picked us apart early and picked his spots on when to attack in transition. He found guys out of the pick and roll. He made some really good passes from what I saw. He is ahead of his time. He is an under amour guy so I definitely have a little love for him.”

Dynamic point guards like Smith have a knack for not only forcing you to adjust, but wearing you down mentally. The amount of attention to detail they require is a tall task. Relentlessly demanding all five defenders to account for their talents. It’s almost unfair… matter of fact, it is unfair and downright brutal.

John Wall was a force in last years playoffs when he torched the Hawks for 29 points and 10 assists a game. The Hawks did everything to load up the defense to whatever side of the court he had the ball on. They gave him different looks each game. Taurean Prince, Kent Bazemore all took a shot at him — but to no avail. Dennis Schröder even began to guard him full court to disrupt Wall’s flow–didn’t change the outcome.

Dennis Smth Jr has those exact capabilities to force a team to completely shuffle their deck. He throws a wrench into the works and then some. But, better for the Hawks to get a glimpse of him now before next Wednesday’s season opener in Dallas.

“He’s an impressive athlete,” said Coach Budenholzer. “The way he can get to the paint. His overall command of the game. Haven’t seen a ton of him but the little that I saw of him tonight was impressive. They have a good young point guard and he should continue to grow and improve under coach Carlisle.”

Athletic point guards are a pain to deal with. For a Hawks team that will rely a ton on their effort and chemistry — now more than ever before — these type of guards will be a tough, if not the toughest task to face this season.

However, if defense is Atlanta’s calling, then they will need to figure it out, because the era of the athletic point guard is in and it’s not going to stop in order to help the Hawks.

The 2017-18 NBA GM surveys are out, which means: let the arguments commence. Similar to all-star voting, the survey tends to slight at least one person. This year, that would be Atlanta Hawks Head Coach Mike Budenholzer. The question posed: Which head coach has the best defensive schemes? Budenholzer received no votes.

It was a surprising omission, to say the least, given what Budenholzer has accomplished in just four years as the head coach. Budenholzer’s Hawks teams have averaged a 104.15 defensive rating and have never finished no lower than seventh in opponent points in the paint per game over the last three seasons. His tactics intertwine with the strengths of his players and that in itself should be a respected capability. Paul Millsap not only logged his best career numbers offensively under Budenholzer, but Bud’s system resulted in a 2.9 defensive box plus/minus average for ‘Sap over his four years—he averaged 1.9 in Utah for seven seasons.

The same can be said for a defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha and sharpshooter Kyle Korver, both of whom recorded their best DBPM in Bud’s system, which involves a heavy dose of ball trapping by the guards/wings. Longtime Hawk Al Horford played six seasons before Budenholzer’s arrival and has always been among the best defensive players at his position. However, he didn’t notch his highest defensive win shares until the 2015-16 season.

The examples are endless, but we can’t ignore how much reputation plays a role in the voting. Gregg Popovich’s mystic is one so strong that it’s plausible his accomplishments are the only reason he came in first over Budenholzer, especially after the two spent 17 years side by side, the former the boss of the latter, on San Antonio’s bench. However, Atlanta’s defensive scheme is as demanding as Popovich’s—or Thibodeau’s, the second place finisher of that GM question—and I can assure you that no player will touch the floor without giving an all-out effort on the defensive side of the ball—just ask any Hawks rookie over the last four years.

Defense comes first and foremost in Atlanta, which has resulted in opponents shooting just 43.8 percent from the field over the last three seasons. Yes, the Hawks did struggle guarding the three-point line last season, but a look at Budenholzer’s entire tenure as Atlanta’s coach and you would see that his average opponent three-point percentage is among the lowest in the league. He’s won at a high level—a 57 percent winning record to be exact—and a lot of that has to do with how attuned his ballclub is on the defensive end. Just nine current coaches have a higher winning percentage than Budenholzer. Out of that group, only two have finished with a top-five defensive rating more than once over the last four seasons—Popovich and Kerr. Only six of those coaches have had longer head coaching experience.

Defense is his staple, and he’s damn good at it. Whenever the Hawks experience a rough stretch of games, I assure you the following practices will be focused on defense, defense, defense—revisiting defensive principles and adjustments, re-examining defensive roles, etc. The lineups may change, but the defensive principles will be the same this season, as it always is—swarming, tricky and suffocating.

 

Pace, pace and more pace would describe the new style Mike Budenholzer wants his ballclub to showcase. A new offense with a young roster also means more mistakes—especially in the early part of preseason. In the first half of their first preseason game with the Miami Heat, the Hawks accumulated 11 ill-advised turnovers, but cleaned up in the second half with just five. Dennis Schroder and Dewayne Dedmon lead the way with 12 points apiece, followed by Marco Belinelli with 10 and the rookie John Collins posting a near double-double with nine points and 15 rebounds.

There is a good chance you may be asking yourself: “What’s new with the offense?” It’s simple—the Hawks have now installed a 5-out motion offense into their system. It is a positionless offense that relies on spacing the floor and a set of rules that determine one’s movements and actions. This offense caters to the strengths of an athletic team like Atlanta by opening up more lanes to the basket for Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore and others. Ball movement is essential to the success of this style of offense, but that has always been a part of Budenholzer’s primary teaching since he arrived in Atlanta and therefore his message shouldn’t cause any confusion.

 

 

A first look at this offense on Sunday night yielded a positive result: more urgency and tempo earlier in the shot clock. Budenholzer’s troops have been instructed to scan the defense and attack without hesitation. The responsibilities for the guards have grown substantially this season—especially Schroder—with the departure of Paul Millsap and his reliability, offensively, in the post. It appears that Schroder—and every other ball handler on the team—is instructed to act early in the shot clock, either by penetrating off a pick-and-roll or off a handoff from a big man.

Schroder dominated the ball most of his time on the floor (and will most of the season) and drew the majority of Miami’s focus. Despite the fact that, in theory, the 5-out offense should keep multiple bodies off of Schroder, opening up the floor for shooters, the Hawks didn’t convert with much efficiency.

GM Travis Schlenk has routinely spoken about the merits of flexibility and positionless basketball over the offseason. By installing this offense, Budenholzer shows he’s on board with Schlenk’s vision and willing to cater to the strengths of his players.

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Next Game: October 4th at Cleveland Cavaliers, 7:00PM EST

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Howdy!

Just a quick recap of the Hawks’ Game 5 (including the officiating, Dwight and Bazemore, the bench, Dennis and Paul) loss before setting the table for Game 6 in Atlanta

That, and in-arena “cuisine”.

Thanks for listening!

The Atlanta Hawks were involved in another close encounter at Verizon Center in their best-of-7 series against the Washington Wizards but came up short 99-103, meaning the Wizards take a pivotal 3-2 lead back to Atlanta ahead of Friday’s Game 6, with the Hawks looking to take the series back to D.C. one more time…

The Wizards were led by Bradley Beals’ 27 points while John Wall added 20 points. For the Hawks, they were led by Dennis Schröder’s 29 points and 11 assists (first Hawk since 1973 when Pete Maravich to record such a line) while Paul Millsap added 21 points.

A fantastic performance from Schröder, who has responded in a big way after his tough first half in Game 4.

Another close game slips away, now Hawks face elimination

One thing you have to give this group credit for: they never give up.

The Hawks trailed by as many as nine points in the fourth quarter and, let’s be honest, hadn’t exactly played the most amazing game in the world. Yet, somehow, the Hawks kept at it and, following a dunk from Taurean Prince in transition, cut the lead to two points with 2:52 remaining. And when it seemed to get away from the Hawks when Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat extended the lead back to five points with just over a minute remaining. But the Hawks weren’t done. Dennis Schröder responded with a huge three-pointer that cut the lead to just two points with 1:01 remaining in the game.

Immediately, however, the Wizards come down the other end and take the lead with a John Wall jump shot behind the Gortat screen. Though I, personally, thought that an offensive foul should’ve been charged for a moving screen by Gortat, not for his first screen but the second one, the one that frees up Wall:

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The Atlanta Hawks won wire-to-wire against the Washington Wizards in Game 3 of their best-of-7 series 116-98, trimming the series deficit to 1-2. John Wall led the Wizards with 29 points on 10-of-12 shooting while Brandon Jennings added 13 points.

For the Hawks, they were led by Paul Millsap’s 29 points and Dennis Schröder’s 27 points.

First quarter blitz brings the Hawks back into the series

This game was essentially decided in the first quarter, a first quarter the Hawks dominated.

The Hawks scored 38 points on 65% shooting from the field and drained five three-pointers. For reference, the Hawks totalled four three-pointers in Game 2. Atlanta also held the Wizards to 20 points on 30% shooting from the floor and led by as many as 25 points in the opening period.

“They jumped on us in that first period. Their sense of urgency was very high. I wouldn’t say that we came out relaxed. We came out missing shots, but we let that affect our defense. That’s happened before with us during the season, and it’s not pretty.”

— Coach Scott Brooks

Brooks is right. The Hawks’ sense of urgency was high and it had to be. If they had lost this game it would’ve been a done deal. Commentating on Game 3 of the Cavs-Pacers series, TNT’s Kevin McHale had a great line, something along the lines of: “2-1, it’s a series, 3-0, it’s over”.

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The Atlanta Hawks dropped Game 2 of their best-of-7 series against the Washington Wizards 109-101 at Verizon Center. John Wall and Bradley Beal combined for 63 points to lift the Wizards to a 2-0 series lead while the Hawks were led by Paul Millsap’s 27 points and Dennis Schröder’s 23 points in what was a truly ugly affair. And unlike ripping a band-aid off, this horror show took forever and a day to pass…

Per Mike Conti of 92.9 The Game, the Hawks have never recovered from an 0-2 hole in the postseason.

A blown opportunity leaves the Hawks in real trouble

The Hawks held a 94-91 lead with just over 5 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and, with it, a great chance to emerge from Washington with a split. And then things went horribly wrong. Immediately, John Wall converted a three-point play after being fouled by Paul Millsap — who would commit a travel on the very next play — Bradley Beal then hit a shot, Dennis Schröder air-balled spectacularly, Kent Bazemore committed an offensive foul and then turned the ball over at a crucial point of the game…these were some of the things that happened in the final five minutes, things that helped the Wizards go on a 16-4 run that put the Hawks out of reach.

Atlanta’s best chance to steal a road game in this series came and passed them by, and they were left to rue this missed opportunity due to their poor offense and turnovers down the stretch.

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The Atlanta Hawks dropped Game 1 of their best-of-7 series against the Washington Wizards, coming out second-best in an ugly 114-107 encounter at Verizon Center. John Wall led the Washington Wizards with a new playoff-high of 32 points and 14 assists while Bradley Beal added 22 points. For the Hawks, they were led by Dennis Schröder’s 25 points.

Turnovers prove costly

From our playoff preview:

Turnovers were a big factor in the regular season-series and whichever team takes care of the ball (and in the process, limits the opposing team’s points off of turnovers) is going to have a huge advantage over the other.

It was indeed a big factor in Game 1 and it was the Wizards who were the ones who took care of the ball while the Hawks were the ones who coughed it up. The Hawks committed 21 total turnovers which led to 23 Washington points. There wasn’t really one specific player who ran up the turnover counter (though Millsap did have four), everyone contributed in that department. The one thing the Wizards love to do is run and get out in transition, and when you fuel them with turnovers they’ll churn out the fast break/turnover points.

Here, Kelly Oubre Jr. gets an arm on a pass from Ersan Ilyasova to Tim Hardaway Jr., and Oubre takes advantage with a dunk in transition.

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In 2015, the Atlanta Hawks met the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference semi-finals after both teams knocked off the Brooklyn Nets and the Toronto Raptors in the first round respectively. The Wizards took Game 1 in Atlanta but an injury to John Wall’s hand marred the victory. Wall would sit out Games 2, 3, and 4 with the injury before returning for Game 5 but clearly wasn’t 100%. The series was tied at 2-2 when Wall returned and the Wizards would go on to drop Games 5 and 6 as the Hawks advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.

While the Hawks celebrated their trip to the Conference Finals, the Wizards were left to wonder what could’ve been had John Wall been healthy. The Wizards believed, had Wall been healthy, they would’ve advanced to the Conference Finals.

“In my opinion, we should’ve won 4-1.”

— Bradley Beal

“You take away Al Horford or Jeff Teague from their team for three games, the series would be totally different. I’m a big key to this team. This team can still do great things without me. Those guys competed and gave themselves a chance to win. But I feel like if I was there we would have had a better opportunity of winning the series and probably could have went up 2-0 on the road like the Toronto series and came home with some momentum, and tried to close these guys out. But everything happens for a reason.”

— John Wall

“Healthy John. That’s all we’re missing. I think if he played all the games, I think we’d still be in the season today. That’s my opinion.”

— Marcin Gortat

And to close out:

“I give them credit. I always give a team credit. I give Atlanta credit. That’s a tremendous team. They’ve been playing like that all year. They’ve been playing great basketball. But whenever you’re playing against me, even if you beat me, I’m a sore loser. They didn’t really beat us.”

— Bradley Beal

“They didn’t really beat us”…

Those quotes came a few days after the Wizards exited the playoffs but I can’t imagine those feelings are much different now. The Wizards’ feelings about the 2015 playoffs are clear.

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Happy ‘Almost-the-playoffs’ to you!

A new episode of This Week in the Hawks is here for your listening pleasure. Topics today basically cover:

  • The playoff picture in the Eastern Conference and where the Hawks fit into things and other playoff talk
  • Recap of the Cavs game

Doesn’t sound like much but there’s plenty of things to discuss at this time of the season in those two topics, as you can imagine.

Thanks for listening! Likes/ReTweets are always appreciated.