For the second straight game Tuesday night, Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer elected to make a small change to his team's rotation, going with Lou Williams over Shelvin Mack as the backup point guard. The results haven't been favorable as Atlanta's offense has sputtered and Budenholzer scrapped the experiment in the second half against Chicago.
Williams played 26 minutes in Saturday's loss to Memphis finishing with six points on 2-8 shooting to go along with three assists. Mack received his first DNP-CD since early in the season. Budenholzer was asked about the decision following the game.
"Just looking a little bit at Lou at the point guard spot. Letting Lou play with both DeMarre and Kyle, or, we played Cartier a little bit. Cartier came off the bench and helped us. We're all looking to improve. We're all looking to get better. As a coach, sometimes you maybe try a different combination, and Lou hasn't had a lot of chances to play those minutes as just the point guard, and I thought he competed. He had 5 rebounds, 4 defensive, and that was a big emphasis coming into this game. Lou is a competitor, and getting him out and giving him that chance was something that we wanted to try."
Lou admittedly hasn't returned to form following last season's ACL injury. He's struggled to regain his penetration and his ball holding style has not served the Hawks' free-flowing offense well. He is much better suited for playing shooting guard where he can concentrate on scoring which he exhibited in the second half of Tuesday's game against the Bulls.
What's odd is Mack has essentially been one of the feel good stories for this team this season. He came to camp with a non-guaranteed deal yet somehow passed last season's first round pick Dennis Schröder in the rotation and has proven to be a solid contributor thanks in large part to his shooting, defense and ability to take care of the basketball.
So why make this change now? Perhaps Grantland's Zach Lowe offered up a clue in Tuesday's article on the trade deadline.
Perhaps this is an effort to simultaneously get Lou going along with maximizing his trade value. The problem is he struggling to run the team and the Hawks as a whole are at as low a point as they have been the entire season. If that is the reasoning, then it is for the short term as the NBA's trade deadline is just eight days away.
This certainly isn't the the only problem plaguing the Hawks during their four-game slide but it is one that has played a big part in the past two. Atlanta jumped out to a double figure lead over the Grizzlies on Saturday before grinding down after Lou came in at the point. The Hawks trailed by 18 in the first quarter against the Bulls and 25 in the second. The offensive execution simply hasn't been there with Williams at the point.
The question now is will Budenholzer stick with this new rotation or go back to what has been successful over the course of the season?