Mike Budenholzer: Hawks’ Coach Will Use Big Lineup Often


The Atlanta Hawks added Tiago Splitter this offseason after a trade with the San Antonio Spurs at the beginning of the free agency period.

The acquisition of Tiago Splitter provides needed size and physicality to the Atlanta Hawks front-court, which will ultimately benefit the team when playing against taller teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers. Throughout the offseason, many speculated that Atlanta Hawks’ Head Coach Mike Budenholzer would utilize a bigger lineup consisting of Tiago Splitter, Al Horford and Paul Millsap in certain situations; but during the preseason, we have seen that Budenholzer will frequently use a bigger lineup in a variety of ways.

-= Related: Walter Tavares: Part of Hawks’ Rotation in 2015-2016? =-

During the preseason, Mike Budenholzer has played Splitter and Walter Tavares at times with both Paul Millsap and Al Horford, sliding both players down a position to PF and SF respectively. Sunday’s game against the Miami Heat was no different, as Mike Budenholzer added 3rd year PF/C Mike Muscala to the mix. If one reads into Budenholzer’s preseason gameplan, we can extrapolate that perhaps the Hawks’ coach does in fact plan to utilize his bigs in a bigger role in the upcoming season.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Chris Vivlamore expounded upon Mike Budenholzer experimenting with bigger lineups during the exhibition portion of the schedule, writing:

"“When the Hawks acquired Tiago Splitter in the offseason there were questions as to whether they would use a big lineup at times. That would include Paul Millsap at the small forward, Al Horford at power forward and Splitter at center. The Hawks have indeed used the lineup several times this preseason. They did it again against the Heat Sunday, even with Splitter resting, as they started the second quarter with Millsap, Horford and Mike Muscala on the floor at the same time. While it’s just preseason and this is the time to experiment, the big lineup may be part of the scheme.”"

Rookie center Walter Tavares has seen extensive playing time this preseason, and while only a rookie, his size present Mike Budenholzer with an opportunity to utilize the smaller Al Horford at his natural power forward position. Tavares is raw, but his ability to block shots and alter an opponent’s offensive schemes is apparent.

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The greatest challenge for Mike Budenholzer if in fact he decides to frequently employ a large lineup is that All-Star PF Paul Millsap will have to play minutes at the small forward position. Millsap did play on the wing during the Eastern Conference Finals last season, defending Lebron James; and saw some success. The addition of a 3-point shot to his arsenal makes Millsap capable of playing the 3 for Budenholzer; but some growing pains will surely evidence themselves at some point.

By playing a big lineup, Mike Budenholzer gains a strategic advantage on both offense and defense against larger teams, but still possesses the flexibility to go small when the opportunity arises. Al Horford is not a true center, but is a 3-time All-Star at the position. With the additions of Tiago Splitter and Walter Tavares, as well as the development of Mike Muscala, Mike Budenholzer can afford Horford the opportunity to leverage his strengths at both the center and power forward position to benefit the team in a plethora of different situations.

The 2015-2016 Atlanta Hawks are one of the deepest squads to date for the franchise, giving Head Coach Mike Budenholzer options. The utilization of a larger lineup is no different. We saw Budenholzer last season experiment with a two-guard lineup of Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder — and this is no different. Mike Budenholzer’s Atlanta Hawks team continues to evolve and to develop into an even better contender for the Eastern Conference crown. 

Next: Atlanta Hawks: 4 Observations from Heat Game

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