NBA coaches are dropping like flies. There are six job openings across the league: Indiana Pacers, Portland Trail Blazers, Washington Wizards, New Orleans Pelicans, Dallas Mavericks and Orlando Magic. The Boston Celtics were initially the most desirable job, but the team is reportedly set to hire Nets assistant Ime Udoka. Below is a ranking of the available jobs in order of attractiveness to potential candidate.
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1. Dallas Mavericks
You get to coach Luka Doncic. That opportunity doesn't come along often. Any potential coach on the market should jump at the opportunity. Yes, there are rumblings Luka is unhappy, but that's part of the reason this job is so attractive. The new coach gets a blank canvas to build an offense and overall philosophy tailored specifically to Doncic's desires.
Also, the Mavericks will have over $25 million in cap space this offseason and can get to max space pretty easily by trading, say, Josh Richardson with a pick attached, or perhaps Richardson opts out of his deal and Dallas gets to max space that way. What's more, let's not give up entirely on Kristaps Porzingis. He's only 25 years old, hard as that it is to believe.
Doncic, Porzingis and potential max cap space, with a route to a ton of financial freedom in 2024 when Porzingis' deal expires (when Luka will only be in the second year of his impending max extension), or potentially 2023 Porzingis doesn't take the player option, is a pretty sweet setup.
2. Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers are arguably the best short-term situation. For all the bad vibes around this team after its first-round loss to the shorthanded Nuggets, we're talking about a starting five of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Norman Powell (if they're able to re-sign him), Robert Covington and Jusuf Nurkic. That's a good team even if GM Neil Olshey doesn't make a big trade potentially involving McCollum, who's really the only attractive trade chip the team has outside of Lillard.
The problem with the Blazers job is Olshey expects the defense to improve significantly with, for the most part, the same roster that Terry Stotts just led to the 29th overall defensive rating. That's not an easy job. One could argue whoever gets this job is being set up to fail in that regard. Also, what if this doesn't work and Lillard starts demanding out? Ask Stephen Silas how it feels to go to a team with contending expectations only to devolve into a blown-up tank job.
That said, as long as Lillard -- who's under contract through 2024 -- is around, coaching him is just so enticing, particularly for a coach who thinks they can implement a bit more movement to create some shots outside of isolation/pick and roll, much like what Steve Kerr did for Stephen Curry.
3. New Orleans Pelicans
So the word is Zion Williamson has some family members who prefer he not play for the Pelicans. That's cool and all, but when it comes down to it, is Zion really going to give up what would likely be in the range of $70 million extra that New Orleans can offer him as opposed to another team? I doubt it.
So you've got Zion -- arguably the most prized young player in the league not named Luka Doncic -- for two more guaranteed years and probably four more after that, and Brandon Ingram is signed through 2025. If you don't love Ingram, he's a trade candidate who could lure a meaningful return. The Pelicans also have a trove of draft picks to put into potential deals, thus giving them the ability, in theory, to potentially make a Phoenix Suns-type leap from talented postseason outsider to a legit contender in short order.
4. Orlando Magic
The start of a rebuild isn't the worst place to be. There's clarity in the job, for starters, and the leash to start winning is longer. If Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac weren't both coming off ACL injuries, this Orlando gig may actually be really interesting. Still, Fultz showed some things before his injury and Isaac has Defensive Player of the Year potential. The Magic can get to max cap space pretty easily by 2023. If they let Mo Bamba and Wendell Carter walk they can reach upwards of $50 million in space by 2023, which could be used to absorb bad salaries and add to their draft chest or to bring in meaningful talent if the timeline is sped up by surprise development. As it is, Orlando already has six potential first-round picks over the next four drafts. This is not a terrible situation at all.
5. Indiana Pacers
Finishing the 2020-21 regular season 14th both offensively and defensively, per Cleaning the Glass, with a minus-0.4 point differential, the Pacers are the definition of mediocrity -- the last place you want to be in the NBA. They have a pretty decent foundation of talent with Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon, Caris LeVert, Myles Turner and T.J. Warren. Turner is a trade candidate and could net a decent return, but the cap space isn't there and Indiana's not a destination anyway. The good news is short-term contention probably isn't an expectation, or at least it shouldn't be, so maybe you get some time to get something going as long as you don't run the whole locker room the wrong way.
6. Washington Wizards
You have Bradley Beal, who, against all odds, STILL hasn't demanded out of Washington. In fact, the Wizards are hoping to sign him to a max extension this fall. If he stays, you've at least got a star in the bag, but what else? We know any team with Russell Westbrook as a lead player has a pretty low ceiling these days, the Wizards can't create meaningful short-term cap space, and honestly, Beal's loyalty feels tenuous at best. I just can't see him signing up long term to play for what frankly is a bad team, their late-season fun-run notwithstanding. Let's be real: The Wizards were four games under .500 in the Eastern Conference. There are no young players to be particularly excited about. You're either signing up for a delayed teardown or a team absolutely stuck in no-man's land with shaky ownership. No thanks.