When the Atlanta Hawks and Mike Budenholzer mutually agreed to part ways last month, it seemed to leave many long-time fans in shock. The man that led Atlanta to the Eastern Conference Finals and won the NBA Coach of the Year in 2015 gone just three years later. It isn’t as much a surprise that this happened considering all of the changes that have occurred in the front office but it still may seem hard to grasp that there will be no more “Bud waves” coming from the Hawks bench after victories.
So what changes from here? Hawks GM Travis Schlenk has reiterated several times now that this change of leadership does not deter the organization from their benchmark goal which is to draft well, develop well, and hold open their financial flexibility until the time is right. By hiring long-time Philadelphia 76ers assistant Lloyd Pierce to the head coaching position, the Hawks can now focus on the next phase of the rebuild.
Pierce has long been lauded as one of the NBA’s brightest up-and-comers when it comes to player development and defensive coaching. At the age of just 42, Pierce offers a connection to both that of veterans and fresh faces. It is no secret that Pierce is highly respected by NBA royalty like LeBron James and Dwayne Wade but also young talented players like Robert Covington (who came to Lloyd’s opening press conference) and Ben Simmons, all of whom speak highly of his work ethic.
In this new age of up-and-down the court breakneck pace, the 76ers were able to find a way to control the tempo on defense and as a result had the third best team-wide defensive rating in the NBA this season. Not to say this rating was solely a result of Lloyd Pierce’s coaching, but his scheme definitely set the foundation for players like Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid to have success.
The Hawks were among the middle of the pack when it came to defense but only just so as they allowed 108 points per game. Now, Atlanta will hope that Pierce can implement the same hard-nosed, grind-it-out mentality that the 76ers have with their young players. Following in a Golden State Warriors mold, Travis Schlenk knows the value of a strong defense, as the Warriors have ranked within the top 10 team defenses dating back to 2013-14 and ranked within the top 5 defenses up until this season.
While Atlanta will also hope to hit on some young talent the way Golden State and Philadelphia both have, it would appear Schlenk is more concerned about developing all the young talent that comes through the system as this was an area that Pierce excelled at with the 76ers. Players live Robert Covington, Ben Simmons, and more attribute a ton of their early success to coach Pierce and his hard work ethic. Pierce is known for keeping players in the gym and having his teams in the best shape possible for the long-haul, habits you definitely want to instill in a young team.
Yes, it will be strange for a time not seeing Budenholzer on the sidelines anymore, but the Hawks did what was necessary and hired a guy that can revitalize and handle this incoming crop of talent that means so much to this franchise going forward. The Hawks now have a clean slate, draft picks for years to come and a young nucleus to build from.
So far, everything is going to plan for Travis Schlenk and company but their next big challenge will be upon us sooner than later as the NBA Draft closes in with the Hawks holding the No. 3, No. 19, No. 30 and No. 34 overall picks in what should be a fun night for fans. Stay tuned as the beat goes on in the early stages of this rebuild and the Hawks transition to the next stage of growth.