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Mike Budenholzer's contract should be Priority No. 1 for new Atlanta Hawks ownership

The Atlanta Hawks will soon have new owners and they will have to hit the ground running with several important decisions to make that will shape the franchise's future.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Once new ownership is in place for the Atlanta Hawks they are going to have a full plate with many decisions that will have to be made quickly. Obviously the situation surrounding embattled General Manager Danny Ferry will have to be rectified, but they have an equally important situation with head coach Mike Budenholzer.

Next season is the final year of Budenholzer's initial three-year deal that he signed with Atlanta. Reports indicate that his salary is in the neighborhood of $2 million per season. Given his success and the added responsibilities of running basketball operations this season, Budenholzer is due a big raise going forward.

A great example would be the new five-year, $25 million contract given to former Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg by the Chicago Bulls. If Hoiberg is worth $5 million per season, then what is a proven coach like Budenholzer's worth?

The Hawks don't need to wait around to find out. Since arriving in Atlanta, Budenholzer has helped remake the culture surrounding the Hawks. He assembled a high-level coaching staff with a renewed interest in player development. When last summer's controversy forced Ferry away from the team, it was Budenholzer who took over the lead of Basketball operations.

On the court, Budenholzer led the Hawks to 60 wins in 2015 and to the team's first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since moving to Atlanta. In two seasons with Atlanta, he has 98 wins which is the 10th most in franchise history for a coach. His .598 winning percentage is better than anyone who has coached at least 150 games.

Budenholzer's status should be priority No. 1 for the new ownership group. There is no way that the Hawks can afford to let Budenholzer begin the season without a new deal. Teams around the league have taken notice of Atlanta's success and Budenholzer would have no shortage of suitors should he hit the open market at the end of next season.

While the 2015 season ended in disappointing fashion for the Hawks, it can't be understated the amount of progress that the franchise has made in Budenholzer's two seasons on the bench. The momentum is there and the challenge this offseason is to carry that into next season. Nailing down a long term extension with Budenholzer is the first step in doing that.