The Cleveland Cavaliers have continuously built themselves into a contending threat in the Eastern Conference since LeBron James left in 2018, yet they have decided to take the franchise in a different direction. After posting 99 wins over the last two seasons, the fifth-most in the NBA during this span, the Cavs have relieved head coach JB Bickerstaff of his duties. The Cavaliers now enter the offseason not only with questions surrounding their roster but also with major questions about who will ultimately be the best replacement for Bickerstaff.

“J.B. is a well-respected NBA coach and an incredible human-being,” Cavs President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman said in a press release upon the news of Bickerstaff's firing on Thursday. “Over the past four years, he helped establish a culture that progressively drove players to become the best versions of themselves. Decisions like these are never easy, particularly when you look back at where this franchise rebuild started under his leadership. The NBA is a unique business that sometimes requires aggressive risk-taking to move a franchise forward and ultimately compete for championships.

“We owe a ton of gratitude for everything J.B. has contributed to the Cavaliers and his engagement in the Cleveland community. We wish J.B., his wife Nikki and their three children the best in their future endeavors.”

In his four full seasons with Cleveland, Bickerstaff went 165-153, leading the team to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since they went to the NBA Finals with LeBron in 2017 and 2018. Bickerstaff initially took over for John Beilein during the 2019-20 season, ending the year with a 5-6 record.

There had been a lot of talk around the league about Bickerstaff's future after the Cavs fell in the playoffs at the hands of the Boston Celtics, the best team in the NBA this season. While many league executives believed Bickerstaff would be retained by the Cavs, the organization was fixated on the absence of leadership over the course of the regular season. Talk of the Cavaliers firing their head coach had been prominent since December, but Bickerstaff and the Cavs were able to steady the ship at the time.

This offseason is critical for the Cavaliers. Donovan Mitchell is going to be extension-eligible, yet his name has come up in many trade rumors already. The same can be said for Darius Garland, who apparently wants a change in scenery should the organization keep Mitchell. The frontcourt duo of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley could potentially be split up for financial reasons and questions revolving around their fit next to one another. Not to mention, the 2024 NBA Draft is now less than five weeks away, leaving little time for the Cavs to figure out their course of attack.

The fact of the matter is that Bickerstaff is gone, and Cleveland will immediately begin their search for a new head coach. So, who will ultimately replace Bickerstaff on the Cavs' bench? Here are the prominent names to consider:

Kenny Atkinson – Golden State Warriors assistant coach

Golden State Warriors assistant coach Kenny Atkinson during the second quarter in game two of the first round of the 2023 NBA playoffs against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Out of all the names that will be mentioned, Kenny Atkinson is surely at the top of the list for the Cavaliers. Not only does he have prior head coaching experience with the Brooklyn Nets, but he has prior relationships with Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert as a result. Atkinson has been coaching in the NBA since 2008, and he has been with the Golden State Warriors since the start of the 2021-22 season. He was one of the lead assistants on the staff during their 2022 championship run.

The main concern for the Cavs is finding a new head coach who could bring out the best in their core group, led by Donovan Mitchell. Atkinson is no stranger to coaching some of the best guards in the league, which is why he would be an obvious fit for Mitchell and Garland. The Warriors' assistant has also received consideration from the Los Angeles Lakers for their head coaching vacancy after he turned down the opportunity to become the head coach of the Charlotte Hornets in 2022.

Johnnie Bryant – New York Knicks associate head coach

Unlike Atkinson, Johnnie Bryant would be a dark-horse coaching candidate for the Cavaliers to consider after firing JB Bickerstaff. Bryant has been serving as the associate head coach of the New York Knicks since 2020. Prior to that, he was an assistant for the Utah Jazz under Quin Snyder. Coincidentally enough, Bryant was Mitchell's personal growth coach. That is why his name will come up in connection with the Cavs.

Making Mitchell happy and getting him to sign his extension are the Cavs' main priorities right now. It is clear to see that Mitchell wanted Bickerstaff gone, so bringing in a coach that he is familiar with and friendly with would make a whole lot of sense. Bryant was also named a potential candidate for the Brooklyn Nets before they hired Sacramento Kings assistant Jordi Fernandez to be their next head coach.

James Borrego – New Orleans Pelicans associate head coach

 Charlotte Hornets head coach James Borrego on the bench during the game against the Atlanta Hawks during the first half at State Farm Arena.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Much like Atkinson, James Borrego is a former head coach who has found success as an assistant in this league. Borrego, who recently joined the New Orleans Pelicans ahead of the 2023-24 season, served as the head coach of the Hornets for four seasons, posting a 138-163 record from 2018-22. He did not take the Hornets to the playoffs in any of his four seasons as head coach.

Known for his developmental skills, particularly with players in the frontcourt, Borrego would be an interesting name for the Cavs to consider given their position in the Eastern Conference. He is also known for his offensive approach to the game, an area the Cavs certainly need to expand upon. The 46-year-old head coach has also received interest from the Lakers this offseason for their head coaching vacancy.

Alex Jensen – Dallas Mavericks assistant coach

Alex Jensen has been an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks since last summer. Before heading to Dallas, he was an assistant coach with the Jazz for 10 years. He originally began his professional coaching career with the Canton Charge in what was the NBA D League at the time, where he was the 2013 D-League Coach of the Year. The Charge, now based in Cleveland, are the G League affiliates of the Cavs.

Jensen's connection with Mitchell is yet another reason why he could be considered for this head coaching vacancy in Cleveland. His experiences as an assistant, as well as his familiarity with the Cavs organization due to his time in the developmental league, make him an interesting candidate.

Micah Nori – Minnesota Timberwolves lead assistant coach

Minnesota Timberwolves assistant coach Micah Nori reacts in the second half against the Denver Nuggets during game one of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Ball Arena.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Micah Nori is certainly a name many around the league are expecting to be the next to land a head coaching gig. With Chris Finch behind the Minnesota Timberwolves bench due to a torn patellar tendon, Nori has been the lead assistant to step up and be the acting head coach for the Wolves in the NBA Playoffs. He has helped take this franchise to the Western Conference Finals for the second time in team history.

A well-respected coach who commands the respect of his players, Nori is going to see a ton of interviews in his future regarding head coaching vacancies around the league. It wouldn't be surprising if he landed one in Cleveland, given his success in Minnesota.

Chris Quinn – Miami Heat lead assistant coach

For years, Chris Quinn has been an assistant coach that many around the league expected to leave the Miami Heat in order accept a head coaching role for the first time. That moment has not come yet, but Quinn has interviewed for several organizations through the years. The Lakers and Hornets both expressed interest in Quinn this year, and the Milwaukee Bucks interviewed him last season before hiring Adrian Griffin.

Quinn, who has served as the lead assistant under Erik Spoelstra in Miami since 2014, is a terrific developmental coach who is only 40 years old. He is definitely the type of energetic and younger head coach this Cavaliers team could relate to immediately.

Frank Vogel – Former Phoenix Suns head coach

Frank Vogel
Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Cavaliers want to win. The goal is to convince Mitchell to sign an extension and compete for their second title in team history. Well, not many championship head coaches are available right now, which is why it is at least worth exploring the possibility of the Cavs pursuing Frank Vogel.

Recently fired by the Phoenix Suns and set to collect a lot of money for sitting on his couch, Vogel has no reason to want to get back into coaching right now. However, he's a terrific defensive-minded coach who would bring championship experience with him to Cleveland. Although it is not expected that the Cavs will have interest in Vogel, he is certainly a name that will be mentioned by members of the Cavs' front office during preliminary coaching conversations in the wake of Bickerstaff's firing.

Sam Cassell – Boston Celtics assistant coach

Sam Cassell is another assistant coach who  has been connected to the Cavs in recent weeks. Currently an assistant with the Boston Celtics, Cassell has been a lead assistant with a few other franchises since 2009. He has notably served under Doc Rivers with the Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers. Cassell would receive Mitchell's support.

The one trait that sticks out regarding Cassell is that he is a former player who simply bonds with his team. Every player always speaks highly of Cassell, and he is always a very player-friendly coach. It is a little surprising that he has not landed a head coaching gig yet, especially given that he has interviewed for several positions throughout the years. Cassell has been named a key candidate for the Lakers vacancy this offseason.