The NBA’s Two Highest-Paid Coaches Have The Two Worst Teams In The League, But One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other

The San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich and the Detroit Pistons’ Monty Williams are the two highest-paid coaches in the league, making a combined $29 million per year, yet their combined record so far this season is 6-46.

Not a great return for these highly paid tacticians. Despite both teams being horrible, one of these situations is not like the other.

Williams Is Roughly A .500 Coach

Williams is in his 10th season as a head coach. His win-loss record is 369-361. He’s only had two seasons with 50 or more wins.

His greatest success in Phoenix had a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals and a league high 64 wins the following season. But both ended poorly, and you can point to Williams as part of the problem.

After grabbing a 2-0 lead in the Finals, the Milwaukee Bucks won four straight and Williams failed to make adjustments as the series was slipping away.

The following season Williams led the Suns to the best record in the league and an ugly playoff defeat to the Dallas Mavericks, getting blown out at home, all highlighted by a public disagreement with starting center Deandre Ayton. That rift never healed and carried over into last season which saw new owner Mat Ishbia trade for Kevin Durant and fire Williams after another disappointing playoffs.

By every available metric and the eye test, Williams’ Pistons are the worst team in the league. Last in aNET rating, 30th in aORTG and 25th in aDRTG.

Williams has been unable to get this group to buy in defensively, and they’re in the midst of an historic 24-game losing streak. It’s ugly in Detroit.

Who are the players he can count on? Who can he reach and help develop to reach their full talent? It’s only year one and this team was supposed to be bad. Not this bad.

Pop Has Won In The Past, Can He Win In The Future?

Pop is cemented as an all-time great coach. He’s won five NBA championships, been a three-time coach of the year and led Team USA basketball to a gold medal in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. He led the Spurs to the playoffs 22 consecutive seasons.

The last four have been below his standards, calling into question how Pop fares without Hall of Fame players. No coach does well, consistently, without elite talent. The Spurs have been bereft of high-end talent for the past four seasons.

That has all changed with 2023 No. 1 overall draft pick Victor Wembanyama and the 11th pick in the 2020 draft, Devin Vassell. But that’s not nearly enough to win at a consistent level.

The Spurs are actively trying to lose games as they figure out which players can be a part of a winning organization next to Wemby. They start 20-year-old Jeremy Sochan at point guard, who has no idea how to organize a team on offense. Keldon Johnson is OK offensively but lacks consistency. Starting center Zach Collins is 26 years old and not on the younger players’ timeline. Vassell has a chance, and he’s the only player on the roster that seems close.

All that said, Pop does need to show he can engage and motivate young players. He and his staff also need to prove they can develop players.

We give him the benefit of the doubt because of what he’s done in the past. But sports is a what have you done for me lately business. He needs to be better.

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