Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer watches a three point try during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers Tuesday, April 10, 2018, in Atlanta. Philadelphia won 121-113.
Photo: AP Photo/John Amis
Photo: AP Photo/John Amis

What compensation could Hawks expect for letting Budenholzer leave?

If Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer decides to take another job, it almost certainly will cost his new team in the form of draft-pick compensation. 

Budenholzer still is under contract with the Hawks for two more seasons at about $14 million (his deal wasn’t altered when he gave up his personnel power in 2017). The Hawks have granted him permission to speak with the Suns about their open head coach position. If Budenholzer takes that job, or any other, the Hawks would demand compensation to let Budenholzer out of his contract. 

There is a recent precedent for an NBA coach leaving under similar circumstances: Doc Rivers departed the Celtics to become Clippers head coach before the 2013-14 season. (The Magic hired Stan Van Gundy away from the Heat in 2007 but Van Gundy no longer was Miami head coach at the time.) 

Rivers, like Budenholzer, had previously been NBA named coach of the year (though Rivers had the added cachet of winning the 2008 NBA championship with the Celtics). The Celtics then, like the Hawks now, were entering a rebuilding period and Rivers in 2013, like Budenholzer in 2018, decided to look elsewhere. 

At the time, Rivers had three years and $21 million left on his contract. The Celtics got an unprotected first-round pick in the 2015 draft from the Clippers, which ended up being the No. 28 overall pick. (Boston used it to select former Georgia State star R.J. Hunter.) 

The Suns own an extra first-round pick from in the 2019 draft (via Milwaukee) and the 2021 draft (via Miami). Depending on which year it rendered, an unprotected first-round pick from the Suns could be more valuable to the Hawks than the pick the Celtics got from the Clippers. 

The Suns just finished at the bottom of the league standings. GM Ryan McDonough has declared that he will be aggressive in free agency this summer with the team’s ample cap space but there’s a chance the Suns will be a lottery team again next season.

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