Power Ranking Each Vacant NBA Head Coaching Job
NBA coaches are not safe. George Karl and Lionel Hollins proved that last season, while Mark Jackson became the poster boy for fired coaches in 2014.
With summer nearing, seven teams have vacancies at head coach. There are plenty of candidates to fill the positions, but the question is: Which job is the most appealing?
When addressing this query, several factors come to mind. Most of them contribute to the long-term outlook of each franchise (cap space, draft picks, etc.); however, you can't ignore the current makeup of the respective rosters.
All seven teams have reason for optimism, yet you must take the good with the bad. There's no such thing as a perfect situation, but each job has something to offer either now or in the future.
7. Detroit Pistons
2013-14 Record: 29-53
The Detroit Pistons went about the 2013 offseason with a video game-like approach. They snagged Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith, and while money clearly wasn't a concern, neither was overall roster makeup.
Despite having a gem of a center in Andre Drummond, the new head coach (whoever it ends up being) will take on an awkward collection of players in the frontcourt. Drummond, Smith and Greg Monroe are individually great talents, but they failed to create a cohesive brand of basketball in their first year together.
On top of everything else, there's an obvious catch-22 when it comes to Monroe. He's a restricted free agent, and while bringing him back encourages the logjam, letting him go means saying goodbye to a potential All-Star.
The front office in Detroit has looked far from reliable, and that's also noteworthy for coaching candidates. If management can't intervene and fix the roster, it's up to the next coach to organically fix the rotation.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves
2013-14 Record: 40-42
The 2013-14 campaign was when the Minnesota Timberwolves were supposed to make their return to the postseason. In fact, the year prior featured the same narrative.
As it turned out, 2013-14 was another disappointment for a franchise that has struggled to turn things around.
With Kevin Love's future in flux, this job becomes a risky one to take despite having a strong starting lineup. All vacant coaching positions involve uncertainty (that's why they're vacant), but with such little roster flexibility, management is scrambling to figure out a way to woo its star.
Combine all this with the fact that Minnesota is out West, and you've got a tough job ahead for the next coach in line. The conference is incredibly deep, and while a healthy roster will help the Wolves compete, you have to question whether or not health and a late lottery pick will do the trick.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
2013-14 Record: 33-49
What a strange ride it's been for Mike Brown. After being fired by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010—and subsequently being fired by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012—he was reunited with the Cavs in 2013.
Unfortunately for all involved, the second verse was the same as the first, as Cleveland has once again fired Brown, as first reported by Fox Sports Ohio's Sam Amico.
Now that Brown is out of the picture (again), the Cavaliers are in need of a long-term solution. This is an organization in flux, but the truth is, such a quick breakup with Brown shows that the franchise is ready for a real-life turnaround.
Being out East helps the Cavaliers. There's no denying they were part of the problem in 2013-14, but making the playoffs in a watered-down conference is less daunting than doing it out West.
This group has loads of young talent, and as long as Kyrie Irving can continue improving, the future should start to get brighter.
4. Utah Jazz
2013-14 Record: 25-57
When the Utah Jazz wrapped up their season, Ty Corbin was quoted by Jody Genessy of the Deseret News as saying, "Everybody will be better for this experience. Whatever happens, happens. But I think this group of guys will be better because they went through this."
Corbin is right. Unfortunately, he won't be around to see the better days that are ahead.
Corbin is gone, but this team has a decent future. For starters, it has a slew of money to spend in free agency. It'll have the opportunity to match any offer Gordon Hayward receives, and the leftover cash can be used to bring in experienced players to complement its youth.
Along with the existing youth on the roster, Utah has two first-round picks in the upcoming draft. Add into the mix a wild fanbase, and you've got plenty of incentive to join this organization.
For all these reasons, you could rank the Jazz higher on this list without much push-back. The problem here is that Utah isn't a place for players (or coaches) who crave attention. Star players aren't flooding to Salt Lake City, making organic improvement the strategy moving forward.
3. New York Knicks
2013-14 Record: 37-45
Taking a job with the New York Knicks is a high-risk, high-reward situation. If you win, you're a hero. If you lose—well, ask Mike Woodson.
At this point, Steve Kerr looks like the lead man to fill the position. According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, "Sources have told The Post Kerr favors the Knicks over the Warriors because of [Phil] Jackson’s presence, but contract details have not been worked out."
That's good news for New York. Kerr has been linked to Jackson for a while, and as B/R's Howard Beck put it, "Kerr knows he has much to learn, and having Jackson nearby would be a huge comfort. The New York stage is always a draw."
The biggest red flag with the Knicks is cap flexibility. It's not a coach's job to look at payroll, but consider this: The Knicks still won't have money to spend even if Carmelo Anthony leaves this summer.
Looking forward, even slight improvements should prove largely beneficial. The East won't offer much resistance when it comes to a run at the postseason, and with cap clearing in 2015, things could be looking up sooner than some anticipated.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
2013-14 Record: 27-55
The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off of their worst season in franchise history. The Mike D'Antoni experiment was a colossal failure, and while health was a huge part of that, the coach never got a grasp on the style of play that best fit his roster.
The bright spot is that all of that is in the past. Nobody expects a return to prominence right away, but the Lakers have significant roster flexibility despite Kobe Bryant earning some serious coin over the next two years.
As with most teams in L.A.'s situation, the Lakers have a lottery pick to look forward to. The upcoming draft has the potential to produce multiple franchise players, and that's good news for a team preparing for life after Kobe.
To top it off, Los Angeles will always be a free-agent destination. Losing never seems to last long for the Lakers, and with the 2015 free-agent class nearing, the new head coach will have something to look forward to.
1. Golden State Warriors
2013-14 Record: 51-21
The Golden State Warriors won 51 games during the 2013-14 regular season. It was the most wins for the franchise since 1991-92, and had it not been for an injury to Andrew Bogut, we might be watching the Dubs face off against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Alas, the Warriors have been eliminated, and Mark Jackson has been let go. That leaves an opening on the sidelines—an opening for the most desirable coaching gig that hasn't been filled.
While every team on this list is competing to escape mediocrity, Golden State has left that concept in the dust. It's seemingly on the cusp of contention, and to make its case even stronger, its largely youthful core is locked up for the foreseeable future.
While the selling points are obvious here, we'd be remiss to ignore the fact that it comes with an asterisk. Jackson was fired after winning 51 games, proving that no one is safe unless a championship is around the corner.
Replacing Jackson's personal presence won't be easy, but if the next man up can win right away, the locker room shouldn't be a problem.
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