There are a variety of factors Mike Budenholzer has to weigh to determine which team, the Bucks or Raptors is the right team to coach. Both are attractive job openings but which is more attractive?
Strength and Future of Rosters
Drew, I mean, Eric Bledsoe has vastly disappointed since being traded from Phoenix, notably getting absolutely owned by Terry Rozier. He has mostly been a distraction since his arrival to the Bucks. I don’t envision Bledsoe and Budenholzer getting along, Budenholzer, a Popovich disciple, wants a no-nonsense leader at the 1 and Eric does not fit that mold in any entirety. I am sure Bud would prefer a trade with Bledsoe involved for a more talented and younger Dennis Schroeder, who has indicated in recent days that he would like to be traded to the Bucks.
Kyle Lowry is not the answer for Toronto. Starting off his career relatively slow and looking like a career backup, Lowry flourished on Casey’s Raptors teams. Lowry is consistently a top-10 point guard but simply can not be the best player an eastern conference finalist. It looks like he has reached the pinnacle of his career, dropping in scoring from 22.4 to 16.2 in the past two seasons. He’s not exactly young either, at 31 years of age. He probably has two more years putting up around 16-17 a game and 7 assists, but after that, he should be put in a 6th man-type role to maximize his efforts.
Neither point guard fits the mold of the Budenholzer quarterback, both are outspoken, ball-dominant players that are mainly looking for their own shot. Likely, Budenholzer will jettison either point guard for more of a pass-heavy type.
Demar DeRozan is an unreal athlete but is a perpetual 1980’s shooting guard, infatuated by the midrange. This season, Demar DeRozan is finally shooting three-pointers. He shot and made more threes this year than the last two years combined which led to his highest offensive rating, 114, of his career.
Defensively, DeRozan is not a stopper by any means. The second-ranked defensive team fell to eighth in the playoffs. In fact, he is not even average at defense. His defensive rating was 109 which ranked a lowly 235th in the league. To take the next step as a team, the Raptors desperately need DeRozan to evolve from his one-dimensional game. They need him to become a 3-and-D player.
OG Anunoby displayed his chops throughout his rookie season. He had the 11th best defensive rating at the small forward position. He came along faster than most expected and put up a solid stat line of 5.9 points and 2.5 rebounds and honed his ability to shoot threes, firing 197 and sinking 73.
Budenholzer can turn OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam into the Toronto version of Demarre Carroll and Paul Millsap. Bud can utilize various schemes to extricate their potential. By isolating them at the top of the key against heftier forwards and playing them as point-forwards could make this team look like the Celtics of this season.
Jabari Parker is the x-factor in this aspect of the debate. Unfortunately, Jabari Parker is a free agent this Summer and his stock is very volatile. Once thought to be worthy of a max contract, there is a high chance he gets a “prove it” one or two year deal. He has had great games where fans say this guy is for real and other options where he takes contested three-point shots and fans would buy his plane ticket in a heartbeat. He’s still only 23 so he still has that potential that made him such a valuable prospect. If the Bucks retain him and he has a Summer clear of injuries then I really like the future of Bucks’ roster, otherwise, it’s up for debate who has the better future.
The Bucks just don’t possess the bench that the Raptors do. In the regular season, the Raptors bench lineup (C.Miles, J.Poeltl, P.Siakam, F.VanVleet, D.Wright) ranked number three in net rating for lineups that played at least 30 games on the court, sporting a 17.1 net rating, per NBA.com. This is a young bench unit that can flourish in Budenholzer’s revolutionary offense.
Vanvleet and Wright are both probably top-5 backups in the league right now, but that’s exactly what they are: backups. Wright is 26 years old and VanVleet is a 24-year-old undrafted, undersized guard who had one standout year. You have to wonder if these were fluke years for both guards. can Budenholzer extract their potential like Casey did? Well, with his success with guards like Dennis Schroeder and Jeff Teague, I believe he can and possibly to a greater extent.
There are various upsides and downsides for both sides but in the end because of Giannis’ immense potential, it makes more sense for Bud to team up with Milwaukee.
As Dwane Casey’s situation displayed, being named coach of the year does not necessarily mean your job is safekeeping. For the 2014-15 former coach of the year, Budenholzer, this could be worrisome. Tenured by the Raptors for 7 years, Dwane Casey had plenty of opportunities to take down Lebron James. But Lebron has made it to the finals 7 (about to be 8) years in a row. No one is stopping this dude.
Although many insiders believed all Casey had to was win one or two games against the Cavs to retain the job. What if Bud does the exact same thing next year and the following year, will he be thrown to the wolves akin Casey? This may be the most important factor for a coach trying to settle comfortably at his next destination.
Sure, the Raptors won 59 games in the regular season with Demar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry but they have proven time-after-time that they are not Lebron’s kryptonite and getting rid of them will not be an easy task for Masai Ujiri. Does this mean Budenholzer would be stuck between a rock and a hard place just like Casey and ultimately suffer the fate as Casey?
Will Masai Ujiri break up the backcourt or will he keep it together? This is the driving question Budenholzer that determines if he’s to become the next Raptors coach. He doesn’t want to come into another Atlanta situation where management is rebuilding, it’s time for him to go to a contender.
Budenholzer may not want to coach a team that may land in the lottery sooner rather than later. The Raptors simply have a higher chance of doing that considering Lowry is older and DeRozan isn’t a true number one option.
If Giannis chooses to leave the Bucks then the Bucks can end up in the same position. Milwaukee is not exactly a free agent destination so they will never get that type of talent again, meanwhile, a lot of players would rather stay in the states.
The Bucks were forced to fire Jason Kidd after 4 years because of Kidd’s diminishing relationship with his players. Something Budenholzer will never struggle as he maintains a great relationship with each one of his players. The Raptors have won more than 51 games the last three years whilst the Bucks had 33, 42, and 44 wins in the same time period.
The Bucks did not have nearly the same success as the Raptors with a legit superstar and an almost identical roster for successive years.
Update: Budenholzer made the right choice and chose the more-talented Bucks. All signs point to David Blatt or Jerry Stackhouse as the next Toronto coach.