Mike Budenholzer’s history of offensive success lacks natural PGs

May 11, 2024, 10:03 AM | Updated: 10:08 am

There are many elements of Mike Budenholzer’s past that make him a match for the Phoenix Suns head-coaching job, an opening he officially filled on Saturday.

One of them is how he has created good-to-elite offenses without a “floor general,” a natural point guard of an old-school ilk that commands the offense through direction and playmaking. Much has been made of Phoenix missing this type of piece or someone who plays the position at all and many link it to the Suns’ demise this past season.

But the bottom line is Budenholzer will have to make it work with a backcourt of Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. He has a history that suggests that won’t be an issue.

So what is it? Here’s a look at the four point guards at the helm for his teams across two stops in the NBA with the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks.

Jeff Teague

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Budenholzer arrived to Atlanta prior to the 2013-14 season, which would be Teague’s fifth in the league. The 19th overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft was coming off his first two years starting and continued to play well. He would go on to average seven assists a game, doing his part as a playmaker while also using his best skill as a scorer.

Teague’s quickness and shiftiness off the dribble allowed him to get to his spots, using touch from the midrange or around the rim. He took at least 40% of his total shots at the rim in Atlanta, per Cleaning the Glass. A developed chemistry in two-man games with Al Horford and Paul Millsap gave defenses issues during ball screen coverage. That made him the most traditional point guard of these four if they were to be assessed in that way alone.

Dennis Schroder

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Teague departed after three years playing for Budenholzer, opening the door for the former first-round pick Schroder to get the keys. In a similar mold to Teague when it comes to the expected output and from where, Schroder’s main asset has always been his pace to compensate for the lack of a reliable 3-point shot. He wanted to get downhill and find the room to operate from there, primarily to score.

His assists per game landed at 6.2 in his two final seasons for Atlanta along with a career-high 19.4 points a night in the 2017-18 campaign. Over the course of his career, Schroder has become a reliable third or fourth option on the ball but never been someone teams have gone on to do great things with when he’s running the show.

Eric Bledsoe

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Hey, we know this guy.

Bledsoe got to Milwaukee via Phoenix where he would take more of a backseat as a complementary piece to names like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. His 16.3 points and 5.3 assists per game for the Bucks came from what we got used to seeing out of Bledsoe in the Valley. He’d use his terrific combination of strength and speed to bulldoze his way inside the 3-point line, where he’d get to work, much like Schroder and Teague.

Bledsoe’s best asset for Budenholzer’s Bucks was his defense. He was First Team All-Defense in his first full season and on the second team the following year

If there’s a theme here that will continue with the last name, it’s that these are not traditional point guards but also not star initiators that will be on the ball as much as Beal and Booker.

Jrue Holiday

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

The move that won Milwaukee a title was trading for Holiday after two years of postseason struggles for Bledsoe. Holiday came in with an even better defensive acumen, known as perhaps the best defender at the guard position in the last decade. On top of that, Holiday can score and set up his teammates pretty darn well, to an underrated extent.

Playing alongside Antetokounmpo and Middleton allowed Holiday to shoot 50% in his first two Bucks seasons, using a healthy balance of efficiency from all three levels. Holiday has never been a hyper-aggressive attacker of defenses, making this a cozy fit to play more off the other two All-Stars. He became an All-Star himself in his final season with both Budenholzer and Milwaukee in 2022-23.

Across three years with the Bucks, Holiday posted 18.5 points and 6.8 assists per game.

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