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Pistons’ Potential Head Coach Favorite Fits the Bill

Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores

With the Cleveland Cavaliers hiring Kenny Atkinson as former head coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s replacement, the Detroit Pistons are now in position to hire New Orleans Pelicans associate head coach James Borrego.

Last week, the Pistons received permission to interview Bickerstaff, Minnesota Timberwolves lead assistant Micah Nori, and Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Sean Sweeney.

Borrego is assumed to be one of, if not, the favorite for the Pistons’ head coaching gig due to the franchise’s decision to hire former Pelicans general manager Trajan Langdon as their president of basketball operations in May. Notably, Detroit also hired former Pelicans vice president Michael Blackstone. Blackstone will serve as the Pistons’ executive vice president of basketball operations.

Pistons’ Potential Head Coach Favorite James Borrego Fits the Bill

At one point, Borrego was considered to be the frontrunner for the Cavs’ head coach vacancy. He was ultimately a finalist for the Los Angeles Lakers’ head coaching role as well. However, L.A. hired JJ Redick instead in hopes of him being a diamond in the rough. With that said, Borrego could be forgiven if he’s rolling his eyes at more proclamations that he’s the favorite for a head coaching job.

Nonetheless, the Pistons could realistically view him as one of their top options.

The Pelicans Connection

Borrego’s connection to Langdon and Blackstone through their conjoined career paths is significant. Although there isn’t any indication that the three are thick as thieves, Borrego was hired by them (and Pelicans executive vice president David Griffin). That indicates that there’s already a level of trust and understanding between them.

An Appetite For Development

Borrego’s also one of the few candidates with experience as an NBA head coach and the appetite to work with a developing team.

To that point, several former NBA head coaches have had their names tossed into offseason rumors. For example, former Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts had his name floated in connection with the Cavs and Lakers. Yet, he may not have interviewed for either team. Former Memphis Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger did interview with Cleveland. However, he hadn’t been linked to any of the other vacancies.

As a result, neither seems likely to land in Detroit, assuming the Pistons had interest.

Enhancing The Offense

If the Pistons want a head coach who isn’t learning the ropes while trying to teach them to his players, Borrego is probably the most logical choice. This is partially due to his background and willingness to coach a young, inexperienced team. His offensive philosophy is another draw though.

With Borrego at the helm, Detroit can expect to get up far more 3s than they did under Monty Williams. For comparison, the Pistons ranked 27th in 3-point attempts per game in 2023-24 (31.7) while the Charlotte Hornets ranked sixth (38.2) in 2021-22, Borrego’s last season as head coach. This change alone would go a long way towards making their offense more explosive.

His ability to get LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier playing well at the same time is particularly intriguing due to the trouble Detroit is having with the Cade CunninghamJaden Ivey pairing. To be frank, Ball and Rozier are better outside shooters than their Pistons’ counterparts. As a result, it’s easier for them to play off of each other. However, should Cunningham and Ivey earn defenses’ respect from beyond the arc, they may be able to stick together long-term.

Having a coach who knows who to get the best out of two-guard lineups would then become even more important.

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