Who’s up next?
It’s the question at least five NBA teams are going to have to answer in the coming weeks as the league’s championship hunt nears its end.
The Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons each went in a different direction with their head coaches this offseason, with several of those teams pivoting despite recent success from the sidelines.
What they do next could make or break their odds at success this upcoming season. Here’s a peek into each team’s coaching hunt ahead of the reshuffle this summer.
Former coach: Dwane Casey (promoted to front office)
Goal: Develop young players
The Pistons are one of the youngest teams in the NBA, and owning both the fifth and 31st picks in the June 22 NBA Draft, they project to get younger.
That makes former UConn head coach Kevin Ollie a perfect prospect for the job — and Ollie has reportedly advanced to the second round of interviews for the Pistons job.
Ollie most recently served as head coach at Overtime Elite, an Atlanta-based basketball league for elite prospects between the ages of 16 and 20. As a six-year head coach at Connecticut, Ollie coached the Huskies to a national championship in 2014.
Former coach: Mike Budenholzer (fired after first-round exit)
Goal: Win a championship
The Bucks need some spine, and where better to get it from than the very team that just embarrassed them in the first round.
It’s the leg up Chris Quinn, a longtime Miami Heat assistant, has on the competition seeking to replace Budenholzer (who won a title in Milwaukee after the 2020-21 season). The Bucks canned him unceremoniously after a first-round playoff exit despite owning the league’s best regular-season record this season.
The biggest allure in prying Quinn from Erik Spoelstra’s coaching staff is his potential ability to replicate what the Heat are doing in South Beach. If the Bucks can inject some Heat culture into their franchise, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s team immediately becomes that much more formidable.
Mark Jackson, another revered player’s coach who helped develop Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, is also in play here. What’s clear is that elite X’s and O’s could only get this Bucks team so far.
Former coach: Doc Rivers (fired after blowing 3-2 lead to Celtics)
Goal: Win a championship
The Sixers can’t rely on James Harden to deliver when it matters, and especially with reports suggesting the floor general may return to the Houston Rockets sooner rather than later, Philadelphia’s issues extend further than just the sidelines.
Elite play-calling, however, can compensate for cold shooting, and it’s an area Doc Rivers has struggled most in the playoffs. Former Raptors head coach Nick Nurse is considered one of the best basketball minds on the planet.
And after watching him transform the Raptors into a championship-contender overnight after the Kawhi Leonard acquisition, one’s mind can run amok with the myriad ways Nurse could maximize Joel Embiid on both ends of the floor.
Nurse’s teams have had a fixed ceiling — first-round exit — ever since Leonard left to head west to L.A., but the general consensus is he is a championship-caliber coach awaiting championship-caliber pieces.
The Sixers have that — though their roster will likely need some restructuring this offseason.
Former coach: Monty Williams (fired after second-round exit)
Goal: Win a championship
If the Suns can pull it off, luring Tyronn Lue away from the Clippers is their best bet, for a number of reasons.
It’s a bad string of health, not Lue, responsible for the Clippers’ inability to make the trip to the NBA Finals during his time in Los Angeles. He is one of the most revered players’ coaches in all of basketball, proving it by leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA title in 2016 despite taking the job midseason.
The Suns have two of the best scorers in all of basketball — Kevin Durant and Devin Booker — and there’s even a scenario where Phoenix adds Kyrie Irving to the mix if the team is ready to move past senescent floor general Chris Paul.
Lue is a proven master of managing egos and has been a superstar whisperer in each of his two head-coaching stops.
Prying him away, however, would likely take draft capital, which the Suns don’t have — at least not yet — after trading five picks and two starters to land Durant from the Nets.
Former coach: Nick Nurse (fired)
Goal: Develop Scottie Barnes into an All-Star
Of the 67 players to average 30 or more minutes and appear in at least 66 games this season, 2022 Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes ranked 41st in Player Impact Estimate, a metric that gauges a player’s all-around contributions during his minutes on the floor.
Priority No. 1 for Toronto’s next head coach after parting ways with the championship-winning Nurse at the end of this season is to maximize Barnes’ talents as the fourth-overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
The talented, two-way wing who beat Cleveland’s Evan Mobley for Rookie honors has plateaued, if not regressed.
After winning the league’s top rookie award, Barnes finished his second season averaging the same number of points per game (15.3) year over year. He dipped two percentage points as a three-point shooter, four percentage points from the field overall, and although he increased his assists to a tick under five per game, he often disappeared in his minutes on the floor.
That makes former Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson the perfect man for the Raptors job. Atkinson picked up a reputation as a draft prospect whisperer during his four-year stint in Brooklyn, with evidence in breakout seasons for D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen.
The Nets fired Atkinson when going all-in around Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the 2020 offseason, but the ex-head coach has since won a championship as one of Steve Kerr’s assistant coaches with the Golden State Warriors.
Source: Berkshire mont