The consof the Milwaukee Bucks hiring Monty Williams
Coaching is an intricate yet oft-misunderstood component of the NBA’s daily grind. On your best days, you’re usually sitting on the sidelines while your players take in the glory from wins you helped put together. On your worst days, failures in what is supposed to be a team sport are framed as individual shortcomings. And those imperfections are placed front and center for the world to see.
Former Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer knows this experience all too well. After five years of clinching the most regular season wins in the league, Budenholzer was let go as the first-seed Bucks fell to Miami in five games. Despite an equally winning record, Williams was let go by the Suns organization for similar reasons, and it’s clear he’s not without his flaws.
To start, Williams is simply not the most innovative offensive coach, hard stop. His system consisted of a lot of pick-and-roll, but that he wasn’t able to make things work with the likes of Kevin Durant and Devin Booker in tow is alarming. Considering how often the Bucks’ offense has dried up in inopportune moments in years past, this flaw is certainly something to keep in mind.
For instance, the mid-range-happy Suns finished 27th in the league in drives per game with just 42.4 this past regular season. Their 277 passes per game were also middle-of-the-pack compared to other teams. 25.1 of their points per game were off pull-up shooting — good for third in the league in that statistic. The truth is that team with that much offensive firepower across all three levels has no business putting up such pedestrian numbers.
This kind of isolation-heavy basketball might not be to the benefit of the Bucks, as we’ve already seen time and time again. Having Giannis Antetokounmpo as the primary ball-handler at the top of the key is what eventually spelled the difference against Toronto in 2019. That setup is also among the main reasons the vaunted “Giannis Wall” worked so well in those playoffs and the year after.
Perhaps the biggest flaw of Monty Williams’ is that he’s also exposed himself as rather slowfooted when it comes to making in-game adjustments. The past few playoff exits are evidence of that. Just look at the four straight games they dropped against Milwaukee after speeding to a 2-0 lead in the 2021 NBA Finals.
As a result of this lack of adjustments, the Phoenix Suns have consistently been found lacking by way of composure, especially in the clutch. The stats back this up: per NBA.com/stats, the Suns’ ninth-ranked plus-2.2 net rating in the regular season dropped down to an 18th-ranked minus-2.7 in games decided by five points or less in the remaining five minutes.
Though there’s no room to doubt his pedigree as a basketball mind, there’s no escaping the fact that Williams has only been a head coach for four seasons. That could be a concern for some Bucks fans moving forward. After all, Milwaukee just let go of a longer-tenured coach in Mike Budenholzer and need a more experienced coach to right the ship.
Williams’ Suns teams have also found themselves on the receiving end of (not undeserved) criticism for being mentally weak. It’s rather telling that they’ve flamed out in must-win elimination games in humiliating fashion for two years in a row now — and to ostensibly lesser opponents, too.
It’s worth mentioning that these are shortcomings the Bucks have already seen before. At the same time, the Bucks would be a good fit for Williams. They have a talented albeit ageing roster that is ready to win now.
Ultimately, the decision of hiring Monty Williams is up to the Milwaukee Bucks and general manager Jon Horst as he assess every candidate. Williams is also set to be on the radar of all three teams looking for a new lead tactician going forward, which should necessitate a bit of urgency on Milwaukee’s part to make a decision. Expect Horst to weigh the pros and cons carefully before coming to a decision.
Stay tuned for more updates as the Bucks’ coaching search unfolds.