Milwaukee Bucks: Jon Horst lauds Mike Budenholzer’s performance this season

Sept 20, 2019; Milwaukee, WI, USA (Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY Sports)
Sept 20, 2019; Milwaukee, WI, USA (Mike De Sisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY Sports) /

The overarching theme of the Milwaukee Bucks‘ 2020-21 season has been taken a different approach.

Facing adversity has been paramount to the Bucks this regular season and whether it’s been injuries or COVID-related absences that are unique to this year, that all has been a steady feature throughout the campaign. The biggest question is whether the Bucks’ head coach, Mike Budenholzer, would be able to spearhead a fundamentally different way to how he’s helped build this current iteration of the Bucks.

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Now standing at 35-22 with 15 games left in the regular season, Budenholzer has the backing of Bucks general manager Jon Horst, who was effusive in his praise when meeting with local media Monday afternoon, which you can watch via the Bucks’ YouTube channel.

When the topic of adjustments and the different approach the Bucks have taken this year came up, Horst didn’t mince words with where his partnership with Budenholzer is at this stage in the season:

"“I think it’s awesome. It’s incredible to have a partner in this business that cares about winning as much as he does that he’s willing to adjust and change and try things differently for the ultimate goal.I think all of us want to win and want to win at the highest level and we’re willing to do anything we can to do it. When the motivation and the mindset is not one of selfishness or lack of flexibility, it’s a true, genuine kind of partnership where we work together and try to figure out ways to do it better. That’s how you get there, I hope…The things we’re doing offensively is an example of that. Different defensive strategies and philosophies are examples of that. There’s examples from players’ perspectives and from a front office perspective, with the way we’ve attacked certain transactions and different things we’ve done.“Ultimately, who knows if it works out. You have to be lucky, you have to be healthy. But the mindset and the motivations behind what we’re doing, I think is awesome. That’s the word I would use. It’s incredible that Bud and his staff are doing the things that they’re doing and it’s not always easy. It’s not always pretty when you do it…"

Mike Budenholzer has overseen an evolving Milwaukee Bucks roster this season

Horst continued his answer by detailing the various strides the Bucks have made on both sides of the ball under Budenholzer and as the front office has continued to tinker with the roster as the year has gone on:

"“At the beginning of the year, I don’t know what the lowest our defensive rating was, but it was probably middle of the league. Now we’re up to sixth in the league. It’s easy to second guess when you try to do things differently, or from my perspective, we went out and got a bunch of shooters. Well that’s great, we’re the second-best shooting team in the NBA, making the second-most threes at 15 a game, shooting 40 percent, whatever we’re doing. But we couldn’t guard a soul.Well, you got to believe in what we’re doing and why we did it, believe in the coaching staff that continues to coach these guys and motivate and push them to improve. Now we’re still making a ton of threes, we’re still the highest scoring offense in the NBA and now we’re the sixth-best defense in the NBA. We’re getting better as it goes on. If you looked at our roster last year around the same time, there’d be 11 different names on our team this year than there were last year. We had a one week training camp, a condensed schedule, we’re in the middle of a pandemic and again, we’re 14 games over .500. Bud’s doing a hell of a job. I think the other night in Minnesota, he became the fastest coach in Bucks history to win 150 games and ninth-fastest coach to reach 150 wins with a franchise. So the guy’s doing an incredible job, incredible partner and we’re very thankful to have him.”"

Mike Budenholzer earned a vote of confidence from Milwaukee Bucks GM Jon Horst

We’ll soon have our answer as to whether the adversity and various challenges the Bucks have faced throughout this season will help the Bucks respond to the looming challenges that will surely come as they embark on their playoff run.

For all of the regular season success that Budenholzer has experienced both in Atlanta and now in Milwaukee, his teams have faltered spectacularly in the postseason where he’s logged two trips to the Eastern Conference Finals over his coaching career. Therefore, the skepticism surrounding Budenholzer’s ability to adjust when it matters most is certainly earned from an outsider’s perspective.

That gets to the heart of why this Bucks season remains to fascinating as they have gone through the ebbs and flows and experimented more than ever in the Budenholzer era.

In particular, the defensive evolution they’ve undergone, whether it’s incorporating more zone looks or switching, has had its ups and downs, though some of that has been informed by the recent injuries the Bucks have overcome at the moment. And we’ll certainly whether the Bucks’ shooting can maintain against high-level matchups as will whether Giannis Antetokounmpo can break through the looming walls that will surely be built.

Next. 3 concerns currently looming over Bucks' final stretch. dark

With nothing left to prove when it comes to their regular season performance, the Bucks set their sights on embracing the tests that they previously aced until it mattered the most. By taking such an approach, Budenholzer will soon be on the clock to see whether he come up with the answers to reverse the Bucks’ playoff fortunes this season.