With the Detroit Pistons having fired Maurice Cheeks, the question has to be asked: Is Lionel Holins the perfect fit as the next Detroit Pistons head coach?
There is certainly sufficient reason to believe he would be. The Pistons, for better or worse, are a team that is built around their frontcourt, with Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith being the future of the team.
Hollins’ gig with the Memphis Grizzlies was under similar circumstances. There, he rejuvenated the career of power forward Zach Randolph and helped Marc Gasol become one of the elite centers in the league.
The principle problem in the Motor City is that none of their frontcourt players have a workable perimeter shot. The same was true after the Grizzlies traded away Rudy Gay for Tayshaun Prince, and Hollins still guided the team to the Western Conference Finals.
The offense he ran in Memphis could work in Detroit, too, with Monroe taking the role of Gasol and working out of the high post as a shooter and passer. As his shot chart indicates, he doesn't shoot from mid-range often, but when he does, he’s effective. And that might be all you need to get Detroit’s “Big Three” to work as a more cohesive unit.
Furthermore, for all the talk about their offensive problems, which ranks 21st in efficiency, their defense is ranked 24th and could use some work. Hollins' defensive scheme seems right up the alley of the Pistons. During his first year in Memphis, Matt Moore of CBS Sports described the Grizzlies defense:
Unconventional is the word, here, as the Grizzlies run counter to every defensive tradition in the NBA. They don't play position, they attack the ball. They don't focus on misses, they swarm for steals. They don't deny layups, they pester and pressure until the offense collapses.
Out of nowhere, Lionel Hollins turned one of the worst defenses in the league into one of the best. Tony Allen's influence helps, so does Shane Battier's, but it's Memphis' adoption of the blue collar ethic of the town that helped them make their playoff run.
Here are two things that should perk up the ears of Pistons fans: First, he turned around the defense in Memphis almost immediately. Second, the style of defense would work well with Detroit’s personnel. Smith (1.7 steals per game) and Brandon Jennings (1.5 steals per game) are gambling ball hawks who would flourish in a Hollins defense.
Typically, they have habits that a lot of coaches wouldn't encourage, but with Hollins’ system they could channel those tendencies for good instead of evil.
Hollins has been thinking about it, too. He was recently on Sirius XM NBA Radio, and Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk caught the conversation, quoting Hollins' thoughts on Detroit:
Well, I think the kid, [Andre] Drummond, can be an outstanding defensive center. He needs to obviously develop offensively but defensively and rebounding – which is a core of being a good team is being able to rebound – he’s coming along really well. [Greg] Monroe has shown that he can score and he’s a decent passer, good team player.
They went and picked up Josh Smith. I think sometimes the three-headed monster is tough to play together, but there’s ways to work around that. But I like Josh Smith. I like Brandon Jennings as a dynamic point guard who can put up a lot of points.
I think they need to learn how to win. I think they need to learn how to play together on a consistent basis and play hard, but they’ve got some intriguing pieces that make me say, ‘Wow, there’s possibilities there.’
Which, if you needed any more reason to back the idea of Hollins as the new Pistons coach, you have it. His comments suggest he has already started thinking about what he would do. In particular, the part about how there are ways to work around that three-headed monster should pique your interest.
Which raises a question: Why hasn’t Dumars called yet? Hollins wonders why, too:
I can’t tell you (why they haven’t called). I haven’t had any contact with them, nor has my agent. I’ve expressed to different media outlets that I would have an interest in listening to what they have to say. They have an intriguing team with some of the young big guys that they have. So I would definitely be interested in talking to them.
I’m flattered by all the non-decision makers coming out and saying that the job is mine and I’m the first choice and they are coming after me. Well, none of that has happened, and it only matters what the Detroit Pistons are thinking. Again, I’m flattered with the respect that has been shown me by some of the national media.
Hollins is clearly campaigning for the job, and he's just as clearly the perfect fit for it. Why is Dumars the only one who hasn't realized that?