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Cavs’ Coaching Search Heats Up With Former COY Finalist

Jan 30, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; A view of the Cleveland Cavaliers logo on the shorts of Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) during the game against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center. The Mavericks defeat the Cavaliers 104-97. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports Darius Garland

After divorcing themselves from former head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been linked to several candidates in their subsequent search for a new locker room leader.

On the heels of Bickerstaff’s firing, Golden State Warriors assistant coach Kenny Atkinson and New Orleans Pelicans associate head coach James Borrego were revealed to be the frontrunners for the new vacancy. Days later, New York Knicks associate head coach Johnnie Bryant began gaining steam as a candidate. Now, “the prospect of hiring (former) Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts is among the scenarios Cleveland has contemplated in the initial stages of its coaching search,” per NBA insider Marc Stein.

Cavs’ Coaching Search Heats Up With Terry Stotts

Among the candidates that the Cavs are reportedly looking into, none has a resume that measures up to Stotts’s.

The 2016 Coach of the Year runner-up, Stotts has amassed 540 wins between the regular and postseason. However, he’s ironically had similar success as another former Blazers head coach, Nate McMillan. Both won over half of their regular season games, but it was a different story in the playoffs. Stotts went 23-43, winning just 34.3 percent of his games. McMillan wasn’t much better, going 28-48 for a .368 win percentage.

This ultimately led the Blazers to part ways with Stotts, who had led Portland to four First Round exits in five seasons.

(McMillan was let go due to locker room disconnect, similar to Bickerstaff).

Will He Be More Successful?

When assessing Stotts as a head coach, the question is whether he’ll have more success in Cleveland.

Under Stotts, the Blazers routinely had teams that excelled offensively. In his nine seasons with Portland, they had a top-10 scoring average in seven seasons. This is in large part due to their elite 3-point shooting.

With the Cavs’ offense already tailored for 3-point barrages, Stotts should have a smooth transition so far as that end. Furthermore, with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum developing into stars under him, it inspires confidence in his ability to get the best out of the Donovan MitchellDarius Garland pairing. This is particularly important, as Garland may be concerned about how he’s valued if he continues playing alongside Mitchell.

However, Stotts’ teams were almost always poor defensively, which is where the Cavs have shined under Bickerstaff.

In Bickerstaff’s four full seasons as Cleveland’s head coach, the Cavs ranked in the top-seven in opponents points per game for three consecutive seasons. Their frontcourt personnel lent itself to above-average defense with their length and shot-blocking ability. Still, Bickerstaff even motivated less impactful defenders to play with more gusto. As a result, Garland started generating turnovers at a higher rate. Mitchell played with more energy at that end than he had since his early NBA days.

Perhaps that effort will carry over, even without Bickerstaff. Even if it doesn’t, players like Evan Mobley won’t suddenly forget how to play defense. Nonetheless, Cleveland’s ability to continue playing dominant defense under Stotts is a legitimate concern with regard to his potential hire.

The Last Word On Terry Stotts

Stotts may be the best coaching hire for the Cavs.

His background, developmental abilities,  and experience coaching a two-headed monster in the backcourt is enticing. Furthermore, though the defensive concerns are sobering, Cleveland’s roster is more suited to hold up at that end. This is particularly true when comparing their respective frontcourts.


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