While the race for the championship is heating up, other eliminated squads are on the move to fill their head coaching positions. There have been three hirings since the season ended: Jordi Fernandez with the Brooklyn Nets, Charles Lee with the Charlotte Hornets, and Mike Budenholzer with the Phoenix Suns. Additionally in the same timeframe, Jason Kidd of the Dallas Mavericks and Ty Lue of the LA Clippers signed contract extensions, while Brian Keefe of the Washington Wizards has been named as the official HC after an interim tenure.

Such has left the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers as the only two teams without a head coach. Interestingly enough, it can be argued that those are two of the most unappealing coach vacancies as of the moment.

Also interesting is it’s the two places LeBron James would probably be most play for next, but I digress.

The Lakers fired Darvin Ham after just two seasons. He was a combined 90-74 in in the regular season and 9-12 in the playoffs, which includes a Western Conference Finals appearance last year and a first-round exit this year. It was a rocky stint as he had to deal with the pressure of coaching James and dealing with the demanding Laker fanbase, both of which are shadowed by “championship or bust” standards. There’s also the alleged clashes with other players–most notably Russell Westbrook and D’Angelo Russell–and questions about his lineup rotations.

Ham is also the third head coach General Manager Rob Pelinka has fired over the last five years, following Luke Walton and Frank Vogel, who was booted in 2022, just two seasons removed from guiding the Purple and Gold to a championship.

The Cavaliers, meanwhile, let JB Bickerstaff go despite four solid seasons. In between his stay, he helped develop the young core, and stirred the franchise into its winningest season and first playoff series win without LeBron James since 1993. He, however, has struggled to maintain a healthy relationship with team All-Star Donovan Mitchell, who allegedly “factored” into the firing. The front office also has a decision to make between Mitchell and his backcourt partner Darius Garland. At least one may be traded this off-season, and it’s just one of the many uncertainties surrounding the team.

As the Lakers and Cavs now go through the process of finding their next head coach, we see that they are roaming around the same names:

With that, let’s take a look at the five hot candidates:

JJ Redick

The retired, 15-year veteran has been linked to the Lakers for weeks. He has gained notoriety ever since going deep in TV and podcasting, including his Mind The Game podcast with James – something that’s causing the majority to assume he’s going to be the next Lakers coach, although he has also previously interviewed for the Hornets job. While he has showcased communication and great knowledge on the X’s and O’s, though, many are either weary due to his inexperience or put off because of his polarizing takes

Kenny Atkinson

Atkinson is arguably the most accomplished in the crop. He’s not only a former head coach, he also guided that team (2018-19 Brooklyn Nets) to a surprise playoff appearance. Currently, he’s a revered assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors, where he won a championship and developed young players, as he always does. 

James Borrego

Borrego came from the Gregg Popovich tree and is a current assistant with the New Orleans Pelicans. He previously coached for the Charlotte Hornets (2018-2022), helping hone LaMelo Ball and boost the team’s offense. They barely missed the playoffs in ‘22, going 43-39 and ranking fourth in points per game.

Sam Cassell

Like Redick, Cassell is a respected retired NBA veteran, having played for 15 years (1993-2008) and earning three championships. He’s been grinding through the league as an assistant since 2009, and with stints alongside Doc Rivers, and the current, top-seeded Boston Celtics, ‘Sam I am’ is looking to be an attractive choice to be a first-time head coach.

Chris Quinn

Another retired NBA veteran and assistant coach rounds out the list of rumored candidates. Quinn was a beloved Miami Heat back-up point guard back in the day and has been Erik Spoelstra’s right hand man since 2014. With the Heat’s successes in that period, which includes developing undrafted players into big contract-worthy players, he’s someone to definitely look at.

So, who fits where? It’s a tough call. It’s not an exciting group, and both teams have more things to address in the coming weeks and months. Regardless, though, no one can really guess who’s going to excel or bust. Note that the majority had huge doubts on Steve Kerr in 2014, when he was suddenly a hot commodity as an ex-player and GM with no previous coaching chops. No one expected him to unlock a game-changing team and dynasty.