Ranking the Best Available NBA Head Coach Openings

By Sidelines Staff   May 18, 2023 

Ranking the Best Available NBA Head Coach Openings

The NBA playoffs are still in full swing, but the league’s coaching carousel is already well underway. Six teams have moved on from their head coaches. One job has been filled—the Houston Rockets quickly bringing aboard Ime Udoka, who coached Boston to the NBA Finals last season. But there are still two NBA championship-winning coaches on the market. Additionally, the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns just met in the NBA Finals two years ago and are both searching for a new leader. Here is how we rank the five available jobs.


5. Toronto Raptors

The Raptors are in the epitome of basketball purgatory this offseason. Nick Nurse led the Raptors to a championship just a few years ago, but that roster is mostly a thing of the past. Pascal Siakam is their biggest building block. Fred VanVleet may be sent to a new home with the Raptors needing to re-tool for the future.

This team is certainly more talented than Detroit, but Toronto is in a situation with no real direction. The front office could also turn on a coach quickly if expectations aren’t met. There are many more factors to how attractive a job opening is to a candidate than what we see on the surface. Rumor has it that Nurse lost the locker room this season. There could be a belief that whoever takes the Raptors job may well exceed the results of this year. The front office has an incredibly difficult decision to make and needs to hope that their top option is available.

4. Detroit Pistons

The entire city of Detroit was almost to the point of tears Tuesday night during the NBA Draft lottery. Losing as many games as they did and not securing a top-five pick is an absolute gut punch. The Pistons will have the opportunity to still get a very good player in one of the Thompson twins. They may also opt to move back to score some significant draft capital.

This roster certainly is not as talented as Toronto. But whoever chooses this job will be handed a very long leash. There are few expectations for this upcoming season for the Pistons. All anyone can hope for is to get a full healthy season from up-and-coming star Cade Cunningham. Ideally, the Pistons will be targeting an experienced coach who can be a leader to young talent, such as Cunningham, Jordan Ivey, Marvin Bagley III, and crew.

3. Philadelphia 76ers

With news breaking of Doc Rivers being fired and James Harden likely opting out of his deal, the 76ers are in for an offseason full of difficult decisions. Joel Embiid just won the MVP award. But with his partner in crime leaving Philly, it becomes a huge question of how they are going to fill those gaps. It’s especially frustrating for a franchise that again has failed to advance out of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Their conference finals drought now stands at 22 years.

Tyrese Maxey seems poised to make that leap into the starting point guard position. The front office, however, cannot afford to have the “run it back” mentality. Embiid is nearly 30 and still has yet to seriously contend for a title. The man hired to lead the Sixers to new heights will have a tall task ahead of him. A coach considering Philadelphia knows what they are getting: a top-three player in the league who is going nowhere anytime soon, but with that comes high expectations. Doc Rivers, who won the 2008 NBA title with Boston, was unable to get Philly over the hump and was dismissed. Whoever the 76ers hire is getting a crazy fan base and a solid core, but they will need to win immediately.

2. Milwaukee Bucks

In what may have come as a surprise for most, the Bucks and coach Mike Budenholzer parted ways just two years after bringing a championship back to Milwaukee. This job immediately went to the top of many prospective head coaches’ radars. They will inherit Giannis Antetokounmpo and what is a mostly intact championship roster. The writing was on the wall for coach Bud after the comments made by Antetokounmpo after their Game 5 defeat to the 8-seed Miami Heat.

The biggest question for whomever the Bucks hire is going to be how to upgrade what looks to be a roster that is aging. They lacked defensive versatility in their first-round series loss to Miami, which is something that a coach like Nick Nurse could come in and improve immediately. Frank Vogel, who won a title in 2020 with the Los Angeles Lakers, is also reportedly being considered. There will surely be lofty expectations for the new hire. The Bucks look to take advantage of Antetokounmpo’s prime and bring home another trophy. The Bucks finished with the NBA’s best regular-season record this year, so there’s plenty to build on.

1. Phoenix Suns

Phoenix getting the top spot on our list over Milwaukee was a tough decision, but the deciding factor is the man at the top. Since Mat Ishbia took over as the Suns’ new owner, he has done nothing but make moves. Many will question the trade for Kevin Durant after Mikal Bridges exploded on the scene for Brooklyn, but Ishbia’s willingness to make moves to try and make a championship push cannot be understated. Having the full backing of a front office who is willing to take risks to take that next step is a coach’s dream scenario. Having two top-10 players in the NBA certainly does not hurt matters.

The reality of the situation is that the Durant trade was meant for the next two years. Phoenix (along with Milwaukee from this list) is already a top-five favorite for the 2024 NBA Championship in futures bets at DraftKings. Durant and Devin Booker only played 20 games together this year including the playoffs, and managed to go 15-5 all while missing some of their most important pieces. Phoenix may look to move Chris Paul and center DeAndre Ayton to build a more complete roster around their two stars. The Suns will likely have their pick of the available coaching candidates this summer as the franchise does whatever it takes to win its first-ever championship.

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