Ranking Each NBA Head Coaching Opening by Its Appeal

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistMay 14, 2015

New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23), guard Klay Thompson (11), guard Tyreke Evans and guard Eric Gordon (10) react during the second half of Game 3 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in New Orleans, Thursday, April 23, 2015. The Warriors won in overtime 123-119, to take a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

Head coaches, it's time to polish off your resumes and scan the job boards—it's turnover season in the NBA

As teams conduct their end-of-season reviews and part ways with coaches, opportunities are opening up across the Association. From underwhelming teams trapped in purgatory to playoff hopefuls and qualifiers that failed to meet expectations, available positions take on distinctly different forms. 

Given the variance, a firm set of criteria was considered when ranking the gigs that have opened up thus far. Specifically, the appeal of a given job was ranked based on each team's current personnel, its cap space and recent on-court trends as a way to gauge potential improvement during the 2015-16 season and beyond. 


Honorable Mention: Pegging the Position That's Been Filled

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 01: Oklahoma City Head Coach Billy Donovan is welcomed to Chesapeake Energy Arena for the first time on May 01, 2015 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees th
Layne Murdoch Jr./Getty Images

The Oklahoma City Thunder moved swiftly to hire Billy Donovan as their head coach after firing Scott Brooks, so we have to use our retroactive spectacles here. 

Had the Thunder's head coaching vacancy remained, well, vacant, it would have topped this list by a fairly wide margin. Opportunities don't often arise to command a title-contending roster, much less call the shots for one that has two of the league's top five players in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook

In that sense, the pros of the job are crystal clear. 

However, the cons that accompany that mouthwatering opening can't be ignored. 

The Oklahoma City gig comes with more than sky-high expectations in the championship department—it thrusts pressure on the new leader to build solid relationships with the superstars and ensure they stick around long-term. 

Donovan addressed that aspect with reporters at his introductory press conference, per the Associated Press (via the New York Times): 

I think the first thing is, coming into a situation as a coach, the relationship part is really important — to have them be able to have some ownership of how they want to play and what they want to do, and to be able to collectively share and game plan and figure out what's the best thing for the team — how's the best way for us to play. That's something that I've got to do once I get back into town on a more continual basis and spend time with these guys. 

The task ahead of Donovan will be an arduous one, but he's equipped with the personnel and resources necessary to mold the Thunder into the champions they've long aspired to be. 

And that's more promise than any other opening can offer at this stage. 

Honorable Mention: An Opening in Chicago? 

Apr 30, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks in game six of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at BMO Harris Bradley Center.  Chicago won 120-66.  Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Encouraging postseason results aside, Tom Thibodeau's time with the Chicago Bulls appears to be on the verge of ending.

"The end is coming for Thibodeau with these Bullsmanagement is obsessed with it," Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski wrote.   

If Thibs' fate is in fact sealed, the Bulls' position figures to be a coveted one. They have a superstar in Derrick Rose, have Pau Gasol on the books for next season at under $7.5 million and are committed to matching any offers for impending restricted free agent Jimmy Butler, according to ESPNChicago.com's Nick Friedell. A relatively cost-controlled Nikola Mirotic (under $6 million a year through 2016-17) doesn't hurt matters, either.  

The question, then, regards the team's eventual leader. According to Wojnarowski, Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg is "management's choice" to fill the role should Thibodeau get canned. 

"He has always said from day one that his lifelong goal has been to coach in the NBA," Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said, according to the Ames Tribune's Travis Hines. "It's for him to decide when that part of his life he wants to activate."

So that's convenient. 

On the theoretical vacancy list, the Bulls' job comes in at No. 2 overall behind the Thunder, who simply have more raw star power to offer.

However, the opportunity to coach a highly competitive team in a far more volatile Eastern Conference makes Chicago's job quite enticing.  

3. Denver Nuggets

DENVER, CO - MARCH 13:  Interim head coach Melvin Hunt of the Denver Nuggets leads Jameer Nelson #28, Randy Foye #4, Jusuf Nurkic #23, Kenneth Faried #35 and Danilo Gallinari #8 of the Denver Nuggets against the Golden State Warriors at Pepsi Center on Ma
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Among teams with open head coaching positions at this very moment, the Denver Nuggets have to be considered the least appealing destination. 

While the team's offensive rating improved significantly to a mark of 105.1 under interim head coach Melvin Hunt, the team still hasn't recovered from the lack of continuity that plagued Brian Shaw's time on the bench. 

Not only is the franchise without a stud cornerstone, but the closest thing they've got to one also could be on the move this summer. 

According to the Denver Post's Chris Dempsey, point guard Ty Lawson may be falling out of favor with the team's front office: 

Once considered an untouchable on the Nuggets' roster, the point guard's actions over the past two years have done everything to remove himself from that space. His new reality? He's as susceptible to the next good trade offer as any other tradeable player in the NBA.

If Lawson wants to remain with the Nuggets, he has an uphill battle to convince the organization there are enough good reasons to put him back on the untouchable list. And there isn't enough time to completely turn the tide by one of the biggest wheeling-and-dealing times of the year, the June draft.

What the Nuggets need is to start from scratch.

While that could be challenging, the team's cap sheet is looking relatively clean in 2016, when a cap spike will allow them to spend like crazy. Such an increase also makes paying the offensively limited Kenneth Faried $50 million through 2019 a bit more palatable. 

Perhaps Hunt can return on a permanent basis and inspire his ragtag group to muster more consistent efforts, and with few selling points to attract top candidates, that may be the best-case scenario for the Nuggets next season. 

2. Orlando Magic

Apr 3, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic (9) against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center. The Magic defeated Timberwolves 97-84. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

It's been three years since the Orlando Magic pieced together a winning season, and the natives are starting to get restless.

The Jacque Vaughn experiment failed, and general manager Rob Hennigan admitted as much when he fired him in early February following a 15-37 start.

However, that doesn't mean the team's scrambling to acquire foundational pieces. They have a surefire one in Nikola Vucevic, who finished the season as one of four players to average at least 19 points and 10 rebounds. Then there's Victor Oladipo, whose post-All-Star flourish saw him average 20.3 points over the season's final two months. A strong opening act on the defensive end from rookie Elfrid Payton will go a long way to providing stability in the backcourt, too. 

At the very least, that's a nice start. 

And it starts to look even nicer considering nearly every player on the roster is on a cost-controlled rookie deal. The notable exception is Channing Frye, with Ben Gordon and Luke Ridnour owning non-guaranteed final years for the 2015-16 season. 

The tallest task for the team's next coach will be turning those youngsters into a viable offensive core. The last three seasons, Orlando's offense has posted offensive ratings of 101.6, 101.7 and 101.6, respectively. 

That's what we call stagnancy. 

But unlike the Nuggets out West, the Magic can achieve upward mobility in the Eastwhere little is guaranteed and everything is up for grabs. 

1. New Orleans Pelicans 

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 20:  Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans shoots over Draymond Green #23 and Andrew Bogut #12 of the Golden State Warriors in the third second half during the first round of the 2015 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on April 20, 2
Pool/Getty Images

Candidates shouldn't get paid to coach Anthony Davis. Rather, they should fork over cash to secure a front-row seat and marvel at his rapid rise up the league's superstar ranks.

But in all seriousness, the 22-year-old Davis makes the New Orleans Pelicans the league's most coveted landing spot for hopeful head honchos. 

ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst reinforced that notion in a recent radio appearance on The Herd with Colin Cowherd, according to WVUE-TV's Garland Gillen:   

The Pelicans also separate themselves from the Magic and Nuggets when it comes to the caliber of their respective supporting casts.

While Davis did the heavy lifting to push New Orleans into the Western Conference's No. 8 seed, running mates like Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Ryan Anderson and even Eric Gordon make New Orleans the premier landing spot for prospective coaches. 

Remember, this is a team that finished the regular season ranked ninth in offensive efficiency, and that may only represent a starting point for an eventual boom. 

That's the Davis effect in action.  

As a productive 2014-15 season displayed, the appeal comes down to upside. Davis is already breaking down statistical barriers and starting to carve out a path of destruction that teams will want to tread lightly on in the years to come.  

"The guy will be the MVP within the next few years, I think," Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said following his team's first-round series win over the Pelicans, per the Times-Picayune's Terrance Harris

Form an orderly, single-file line, coaches. There's going to be some competition for this one.  

All stats are current as of May 13 and courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com unless noted otherwise. All salary information retrieved from BasketballInsiders.com

Alec Nathan covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @AlecBNathan


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