For the first time this season the Atlanta Hawks made a change to their starting lineup in Friday's win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Paul Millsap started the first eight games of the season for the Hawks at power forward while averaging 17 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 53 percent from the field.
However, Mike Budenholzer elected to insert center Gustavo Ayon into the starting lineup Friday against the Sixers sliding Al Horford to the power forward slot and bringing Millsap off the bench. Budenholzer talked about the move prior to the game and indicated that it could be temporary.
"If you would say what is the biggest reason, it's working and trying to get as many good combinations. To be honest, this might be short-lived. I don't know if I'm going to do it tomorrow. I don't know if I'm going to do it the next day. This is not a he is coming off the bench for the rest of the season decision."
"Something that I believe, and have always been a part of, is you don't always start your five best players," Budenholzer said. "As a coach you are always thinking about combinations and keeping groups on the court that can function and play well. How you manage a game start to finish, there are lots of different ways to do it. ...
"I think it's important to figure out how can I finish with guys who are fresh and ready to close a game. When it comes time to close the game they are in a physical conditioning, freshness - and really the whole group is - and sometimes doing something like this really benefits everybody including that (off-the-bench) player."
Millsap played 29 minutes and finished with eight points and four rebounds on 3-8 shooting. He didn't see as many opportunities as he is accustomed to seeing but it was clear what Budenholzer was trying to accomplish.
Starting Ayon enabled Al Horford to play the power forward slot where he can be a difficult matchup on most nights and won't be required to handle all of the physical pounding that occurs at the center position. The Hawks still have a deadly pick and roll combination with Teague and Horford on the floor together.
Millsap instantly strengthens a bench crew that has struggled at times for the Hawks. He would fit well in pick and roll or pick and pop situations with Lou Williams and Dennis Schröder and gives the second unit a threat from the low post.
There is a lot to like about the move but now we must wait and see if the coaching staff saw enough good from it to stick with it on Saturday.