Although it's been nearly a week since their season ended, the Cleveland Cavaliers have parted ways with head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and are finally getting in line to ride the coaching carousel. Bickerstaff was dismissed after a season during which the Cavs finished fourth in the Eastern Conference with a 48–34 record and advanced to the second round of the NBA playoffs for the first time since the 2017–18 season.

But with Bickerstaff now out, Cleveland's search for a new head coach begins immediately. While ClutchPoints has reported that first-time candidates like Dallas Mavericks assistant Alex Jensen, Boston Celtics assistant Sam Cassell and New York Knicks assistant Johnnie Bryant are in the mix, they aren't a sure-fire solution either.

The Cavs must balance the delicate act of finding the right coach to lead this team toward becoming a playoff contender. Cleveland has to do this while keeping Donovan Mitchell, who is extension-eligible this summer, committed to what the Cavs are building around him, which could eventually lead to championships.

So, instead of a first-time coaching candidate, Cleveland may consider someone with experience handling the tactical battle on the NBA sideline. While several names might come to mind immediately, one stands out: New Orleans Pelicans assistant James Borrego, who last coached the Charlotte Hornets from 2018 to 2022.

What makes James Borrego a solid choice for Cavs

Nov 14, 2023; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans acting head coach James Borrego looks on against the Dallas Mavericks during the first half at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

While Borrego's head coaching record of 148-183 doesn't seem like a starting point for a possible playoff contender, there is context behind it. The talent Borrego had in Charlotte, who was young and rebuilding, prevented him from meaningfully contending for a postseason berth. Regardless, his teams outperformed expectations by emphasizing three-point shooting and ball movement while remaining committed to playing hard on defense.

In his final season with the Hornets, Borrego had commanded Charlotte to one of the best offenses in the league, which is remarkable when a 33-year-old Ish Smith and eventually a 10-day signee Isaiah Thomas ran point. Although that still wasn't enough to keep his job with the Hornets, that offensive acumen only further emboldened things for Borrego when he joined the Pelicans as their associate head coach. Which further drove home his legitimacy as a possible head coaching candidate.

While injuries certainly played a major part, the Pelicans finished 20th in offensive rating last season and were second to last in three-pointers attempted per game before Borrego arrived. After Borrego took over offensive responsibilities, New Orleans vaulted to 11th in offensive rating. Although the Pelicans only took the 24th-most three-pointers in the NBA under Borrego, they were still one of the most efficient – owning the fourth-best three-point percentage in the league.

If Borrego were to become Cleveland's next head coach, his offensive ideology would have a similar impact on the Cavs. In Bickerstaff's final season as head coach, Cleveland finished 16th in offensive rating. And although they took the eighth-most three-pointers in the NBA, they were only fifteenth in the league in converting them.

With Borrego at the helm, the Cavs could become one of the more lethal offensive teams in the NBA next season, giving life to a team that's too talented only to be average on offense.

To make that possible, Borrego could ultimately take an approach in Cleveland similar to the one he applied in New Orleans. For the Pelicans, Borrego built the offense around Zion Williamson's unique skillset while still finding ways to let scoring threats like C.J. McCollum and Brandon Ingram shine.

Borrego could take the same approach as Evan Mobley while still finding ways to keep Donovan Mitchell as dominant as ever. If the Cavs traded for Ingram, then Borrego would feel even more at home. And more importantly, could help make Cleveland as lethal as their talent level on offense.