The Cleveland Cavaliers are opening the 2024 NBA Playoffs against the Orlando Magic, and they have a lot on the line against their biggest doubters and critics. While the Cavs are now a year removed from last year's postseason meltdown against the New York Knicks, it's going to be a major focus heading into this year's playoff matchup, even with a different opponent.

Until Cleveland looks like an elite team despite its ongoing on-court struggles this season, the noise surrounding it will only get louder if it continues to struggle against Orlando.

If the Cavs come out flat against the Magic when the series opens at home, things will only get worse—especially if they lose like they did to the Knicks last year.

Obviously, if Cleveland is sent packing by Orlando in the first round, that would be the worst possible way for the season to end.

If that were ever to happen, wholesale change would likely follow, with head coach J.B. Bickerstaff possibly being the first victim.

Is J.B. Bickerstaff's seat heating up?

Kansas City Chiefs tight end and Cleveland native Travis Kelce, left, cheers as Cleveland Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff looks on during the second half against the Boston Celtics at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

With that said, would it be fair for the Cavs to kick Bickerstaff to the curb if Cleveland's season ends sooner than expected?

Overall, Bickerstaff is 160-159 as head coach of the Cavs which at face value, might not seem to solidify his case in sticking long-term.

But, like most things, there's context to it and in Bickerstaff's case, his first full season at the helm was a losing effort but, after that, he has had Cleveland consistently in the playoff race. Ever since the 2021-22 season, the Cavs were either in the Play-In tournament or the NBA Playoffs outright under Bickerstaff. But, unfortunately for Bickerstaff, getting Cleveland to that point and then actually tactically planning for the opponent has been two frustratingly common themes so far during this tenure.

In the Play-In tournament, the Cavs looked overwhelmed against the then Kevin Durant-led Brooklyn Nets and then choked a halftime lead at home to the Atlanta Hawks. The following year, after avoiding the Play-In tournament, Cleveland instead faced New York in the first round.

But, much like their performance against the Nets a year prior, the Cavs looked overwhelmed and outmatched against the Knicks, dropping the series 4-1 and creating more questions than answers about the state of this team.

Granted, Cleveland was ravaged by injuries in the Play-In tournament to key star players and were hamstrung by roleplayers recovering in their clash with New York. Regardless, it's fair to criticize how overwhelmed the Cavs have looked under Bickerstaff when the games have mattered most.

It's the responsibility of a head coach and their coaching staff to construct a game plan that can maximize on-court success, factoring in who could or could not be available for your team to complete that vision. So, despite Donovan Mitchell's knee casting doubt on Cleveland's health heading into this opening playoff series against Orlando, on top of the entire team dealing with the general wear and tear that comes with an 82-game NBA season, Bickerstaff could be under the microscope when the Cavs take on the Magic.

So, depending on how Cleveland performs in the opening round, Bickerstaff could be coaching for his job. Again, it's not Bickerstaff's fault that the team has been hamstrung by injuries whenever things are at their tightest. But, he and his staff should still be opportunistic no matter the opponent and no matter who is or isn't available.

Overall, it's an awkward balancing act where there's no true answer on whether or not Bickerstaff should keep his job after the Cavs' postseason run ends. But, for what it's worth, Cleveland did go on a seemingly improbable run earlier in the season when they were at their lowest point thanks, mostly in part, to Bickerstaff putting together consistent plans for success every night.

While it seems impossible to catch lightning in a bottle, maybe Bickerstaff has one more seemingly improbable run in him to cement his status as head coach of the Cavs.