Ranking the NBA’s head coaching openings

Ranking the NBA’s head coaching openings

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Three NBA head coaches have been fired already, which means there are three new coaching vacancies that need to be filled this off-season. The Kings shockingly fired Dave Joerger, the Grizzlies parted ways with J.B. Bickerstaff, and the Cavaliers dismissed Larry Drew on Thursday. These three franchises will have to find new head coaches.

The question is, though, who wants the job?

Other coaching openings may present themselves in the coming days and weeks, but for now, these are the three jobs available. Ex-coaches like Mark Jackson, Tyronn Lue and Stan Van Gundy, or current assistants like Monty Williams and Darwin Ham will be names that receive consideration. But how would prospective coaches rank the opportunities available?

Easy — I did it for them.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers


NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Sacramento Kings

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

2018-19 record: 19-63 (second-worst)
Draft lottery odds: 14 percent chance at No. 1; 52.1 percent odds at top-4 pick
Best players: Kevin Love, Collin Sexton, Jordan Clarkson, Cedi Osman
Worst Contract: J.R.Smith
2019 cap space: $0 (Mid-level exception, minimum exception)
General manager: Koby Altman
Team owner: Dan Gilbert
No. of coaches since 2010: 5

The Cavaliers’ main draw used to be LeBron James. He walked out that door last summer, and he took with him all semblance of NBA relevance in Cleveland. Collin Sexton grew before the basketball world’s very eyes, but this Cavs’ roster leaves a ton to be desired.

J.R. Smith was dismissed from the team but wasn’t traded and might enter next season on the roster. Kevin Love returned from injury and looked fantastic, but he just completed the first season of a five-year, $113 million contract extension. There aren’t many players left for the Cavs to compete with, but they do have their own first-round pick. Whoever they draft will be a pillar for their future, unless they blow it.

They better not blow it.

3. Memphis Grizzlies


NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Memphis Grizzlies

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

2018-19 record: 33-49 (t-7th worst)
Draft lottery odds: Pick conveys to Boston (via three-team trade)
Best players: Jaren Jackson Jr., Mike Conley, Jonas Valanciunas, Dillon Brooks
Worst contract: Chandler Parsons
2019 cap space: $0 (mid-level and minimum exceptions)
General manager: vacant (Chris Wallace demoted)
Team owner: Robert Pera
No. of coaches since 2010: 4

The Grizzlies are in a weird place. They’re not going to be good, but they’re not going to be bad enough to tank for a top draft pick. It would help if they could unload Mike Conley, but Memphis says it wants to remain competitive. If there are no suitors for Conley’s remaining two years worth $65 million, this could be a job for a bridge head coach.

Memphis does have a star in the making in Jaren Jackson Jr., and the Grizzlies got off to a red-hot start before falling apart mid-season. The Grizzlies, though, also has no general manager after demoting Chris Wallace to a scouting role. Things in Memphis are clearly in flux.

2. Sacramento Kings


Sacramento Kings v Washington Wizards

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

2018-19 record: 39-43 (t-12th worst)
Draft lottery odds: Pick conveys to Boston via Philadelphia
Best players: De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley, Bogdan Bogdanovic
Worst contract: Harrison Barnes
2019 cap space: About $18 million, more if Kings renounce Willie Cauley-Stein or waive Yogi Ferrell or Frank Mason
General Manager: Vlade Divac
Team Owner: Vivek Ranadive
No. of coaches since 2010: 6

The Kings have a bright future, even if they fired their head coach after their most successful season since 2006. (!!) De’Aaron Fox is going to be a star. Marvin Bagley could be one, too. Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic are integral parts to Sacramento’s young core. And the Kings have pocket change to play around with and chase a second-tier free agent this summer.

The big unknown is Divac, an executive no one seems to understand fully. It’s unclear what his vision for Sacramento’s future is. But he’s in full control, and whoever takes this job had better be on board.

1. Los Angeles Lakers

2018-19 record: 37-45 (t-11th worst)
Draft lottery odds: 9.4% odds at a top-four pick
Best players: Lebron James, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball
Worst contract: N/A
2019 cap space: Can sign one max free agent
General Manager: Rob Pelinka
Team Owner: Jeanie Buss
No. of coaches since 2010: 6

To coach LeBron James or not to coach LeBron James. That is the question.

The Lakers are coming off of one of the most disappointing seasons in their history. After signing the best player on the planet, Los Angeles missed the playoffs — by a long shot — then watched their team president quit via impromptu press conference.

Taking the Los Angeles job is a lot like taking the New York job: If you can win there, you’ll be loved forever. But if you lose there, good luck. There’s no middle ground, not during the LeBron era. It’s championship or bust, and no one wants to be at the center of James’ wrath.

But for the right personality and the right basketball mind, the L.A. job is one that can’t be passed up. If the Lakers can get one more star to help James, they vault themselves into the West’s elite. Los Angeles has the potential to become a perfect basketball situation — so long as everything else behind the scenes plays itself out.

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