Milwaukee Bucks Rumors: Playoffs will determine Mike Budenholzer’s job

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - APRIL 27 (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - APRIL 27 (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Head coach Mike Budenholzer’s future with the Milwaukee Bucks beyond this season remains a mystery with the playoffs rapidly approaching.

According to a report from The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Sam Amick (subscription required) Wednesday morning, Budenholzer is one of the many coaches that could be on the hot seat heading into the postseason. The pair note that while there is a very happy team dynamic with Budenholzer, it remains highly unlikely that the two-time Coach of the Year will retain his job unless there is a deep playoff run ahead.

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Specifically, an early exit in the first or second round of the playoffs would almost undeniably spell doom for Budenholzer. If the Bucks were fortunate enough to go further, anything beyond that would be measured with context, with all factors taken into account.

This news should not come as much of a surprise as the coach was seemingly on the hot seat after some head-scratching decisions in the team’s Eastern Conference Semifinals defeat against the Miami Heat last year.

The Athletic reports that Budenholzer was subject to a great deal of frustration for his coaching in Milwaukee’s demise against Miami, largely due to his lack of adjustments. That frustration has reportedly not been forgotten to this point and remains something that could resurface depending on how these playoffs unravel.

What can Mike Budenholzer do to return as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks?

The simplest answer here is to rewrite the playoff narrative surrounding the team and bring home the Larry O’Brien trophy for the first time in over five decades. While that is far easier said than done, the Bucks believe they have the tools to get the job done.

According to The Athletic, the Bucks hold the belief that they are the best team in the Eastern Conference, despite sitting in third place behind the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets. Although context matters as neither of those top teams have been at full strength in their matchups this season, Milwaukee is indeed 5-1 against them.

While a 41-24 record with seven games left to play is a step backward compared to their regular season success over the previous two seasons, Budenholzer has shown improvement with his coaching. The biggest issue that has plagued the Bucks under Budenholzer has been his unwillingness to make adjustments, which fueled their collapse against the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals and their demise last season against the Heat.

Seemingly under the impression that his typically “stand firm” belief will not get the job done, he has been making the proper adjustments this year more frequently than ever. This has been most notable on the defensive end where the team has ramped up their switching tremendously since the team acquired defensive ace P.J. Tucker in March.

As evidenced by Milwaukee’s recent two-game miniseries against the Nets, having that versatility to switch defensively with players like P.J. Tucker, Jrue Holiday, and Giannis Antetokounmpo could be the key to slowing down their toughest opponents. Switching would typically be an afterthought for a Budenholzer coached team, but he has thankfully been willing to switch things up.

Hopefully the same will go for his minutes distribution among the key pieces on the roster in the playoffs, which was a hot topic of discussion against the Heat. With Giannis Antetokunmpo and Khris Middleton averaging just 30.8 and 35.5 minutes per game respectfully, Budenholzer rightfully drew his share of criticism for not giving his stars more time on the floor.

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All in all, it depends just how far the Milwaukee Bucks can go this season with their reshaped roster that is undoubtedly their most talented during the Budenholzer era. The coach has shown a newfound willingness to adjust, but only time will tell if he can execute under pressure in the postseason.