Skip to main content

Ranking NBA coaching vacancies

Matt Johnson

[brid autoplay=”true” video=”793833″ player=”23231″ title=”Who%20will%20replace%20Brad%20Stevens%20for%20the%20Celtics” duration=”91″ description=”Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix names several potential in-house candidates for the Boston Celtics head coaching position and calls Ime Udoka, coaching assistant for the Brooklyn Nets, one of the top names on the coaching market.” uploaddate=”2021-06-08″ thumbnailurl=”//cdn.brid.tv/live/partners/17660/thumb/793833_t_1622757498.png” contentUrl=”//cdn.brid.tv/live/partners/17660/sd/793833.mp4″]

Even as the playoffs roll on, the offseason is beginning for many teams with multiple NBA coaching vacancies across the league. More are likely to come, leading to a summer that will be full of change in the coaching ranks.

There’s a quality pool of NBA coaching candidates this year, which comes at a great time. From those with years of experience as a head coach to assistants who have worked their way up the ladder, there are great jobs available for them this offseason.

Let’s dive into our rankings of the NBA coaching vacancies.

7. Washington Wizards

While this is the worst of the NBA coaching vacancies, we can’t completely knock this opening. It’s an exciting opportunity to work with Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook, who carried this team into the NBA Playoffs. Anyone hired can also feel a little confident in their job security, with Scott Brooks (2016-’21) and Randy Wittman (2011-’16) each lasting at least four seasons.

With that said, there’s plenty of reason to be concerned about this position. Russell Westbrook will enter his age-32 season next winter and the Bradley Beal trade rumors won’t stop. Washington won’t have the cap space to really improve the roster this summer, making a first-round exit in the NBA Playoffs next season the best-case scenario. There’s a low ceiling with this team and when the rebuild inevitably comes, the coach at the helm will be axed.

6. Orlando Magic

NBA coaching vacancies
May 1, 2021; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic center Wendell Carter Jr. (34) goes to the basket while fouled by Memphis Grizzlies center Xavier Tillman (2) as Memphis Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks (24) looks on during the second quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Magic are rebuilding, so this gig will only draw consideration from younger coaches with a background in player development. It’s the right approach by the organization, given Orlando won’t be attracting any stars via NBA free agency or on the trade market for years to come. But there’s still reason to like this job and view it as one of the more underrated NBA coaching vacancies.

For one, there’s going to be zero pressure to win immediately. Thanks to the Nikola Vucevic trade, Orlando will likely make two top-10 picks in an exciting 2021 NBA draft class. Wendell Carter Jr. showed great flashes in his new home, averaging 11.7 ppg and 8.8 rpg in Orlando. Plus, Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac will return.

5. Portland Trail Blazers

NBA coaching vacancies
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Taking a coaching job in the Western Conference comes with more challenges. Even if you land a superstar or a relatively deep roster, your team will almost certainly sit behind the Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors. If that wasn’t enough to cause a little hesitation for coaching candidates, there are the Damian Lillard trade rumors.

Related: Portland Trail Blazers rumors, top trade & free-agent targets for 2021 NBA offseason

But the Trail Blazers are doing things right, giving Lillard input on the next head coach. If you’re the person picked by the perennial All-Star guard and the face of this franchise, he is invested in this team and you. After that, the Trail Blazers can explore a CJ McCollum trade to overhaul the roster, putting a better team around Lillard.

Do that and prove you can actually make in-game adjustments, this team can make a playoff run and that means years of job security.

4. Indiana Pacers

NBA coaching vacancies
Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

The Nate Bjorkgen experiment was a disaster, he didn’t have the leadership or attitude to be an NBA head coach. Prior to that, the Pacers were a stable organization and any head coach working for this franchise could feel confident they would receive at least four years at the helm. Expectations are set reasonably well, the fan base is passionate and there’s even more reason to like this situation.

Indiana owns each of its first-round picks through the 2027 season, creating plenty of trade flexibility. Myles Turner is an asset mentioned in trade rumors who could net a significant return, bringing in pieces to build around Domantas Sabonis. A starting lineup with Sabonis, Caris LeVert, Malcolm Brogdon and T.J Warren is a good foundation for any team. With the right coach, the Pacers are a threat for the No. 7 seed every season.

3. Dallas Mavericks

NBA coaching vacancies
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

If we’re ranking the NBA coaching vacancies purely off star power, the Dallas Mavericks arguably deserve to be atop the list. An MVP-caliber player changes everything for you as a coach. Luka Doncic creates on his own and provides the kind of play freedom that few others can. With the right coaching mind, it’s easy to predict an NBA MVP award in his future and the Mavericks near the top of the Western Conference.

But we can’t ignore NBA rumors and coaching candidates take notice. First, reports surfaced regarding the Mavericks’ fears that Doncic will leave over the organization’s dysfunction and a shadow GM. Mark Cuban strongly denied the story, then general manager Donnie Nelson was fired, head coach Rick Carlisle walked away in the middle of his contract and Doncic isn’t happy.

Oh, the Mavericks also have a limited number of future first-round picks and Kristaps Porzingis tanked his trade value. Doncic is the only good thing about this job. If he ever decides to leave, coaches should stay far away.

2. New Orleans Pelicans

NBA coaching vacancies
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Where you rank the New Orleans Pelicans’ opening among the NBA coaching vacancies depends on your perspective with Zion Williamson. If you believe unnamed family members will influence him to demand a trade before the third year of his rookie contract, this is a bad job. If you think Williamson will stick around, at least until he gets a super-max extension, this is a great opportunity.

There are more attractive elements of this job than just coaching Zion, but he is a unicorn. “Point Zion” was unleashed this season, adding to a 6-foot-7 forward’s game who shot an absurd 61.1% from the field this season. There’s already a No. 3 star on the roster in Brandon Ingram, who is close with Zion. On top of that, David Griffin is an aggressive general manager and his war chest of assets could land another star.

Related: Best candidates to replace fired New Orleans Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy

Zion will get plenty of input on who becomes the Pelicans’ next coach. With his vote of confidence, Ingram and plenty of young assets and talent, this is a fantastic gig. Oh, you also get to enjoy life in New Orleans.

1. Boston Celtics

NBA coaching vacancies
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Barring a stunning firing, the Boston Celtics are the best of the NBA coaching vacancies. For one thing, Danny Ainge leaving the organization is a huge relief. While there are legitimate reasons to wonder how Brad Stevens fares as an executive, he’ll be far more likely to make deals and improve this roster than the man he replaces.

There is plenty of pressure that comes with coaching the Celtics, but the rewards are off the charts. Plus, you’re taking over a roster with future MVP candidate Jayson Tatum and future perennial All-Star forward Jaylen Brown. There are quality trade assets (Marcus Smart, Carsen Edwards, Aaron Nesmith, draft picks) and the organization is hungry for a championship. In short, the Celtics will get first choice of who they want among this year’s NBA coaching candidates.