In his nearly 20 years in the NBA, Cleveland Cavaliers J.B. Bickerstaff has spent 40% of that stretch as a head coach. Other than his time in Cleveland, Bickerstaff has experience as an assistant with the Charlotte Bobcats, Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies.

Overall, Bickerstaff has coached four full seasons as a head coach (five once the 2023-24 NBA season wraps) between his stints with Cleveland and Memphis. He also has taken over a team in the wake of a head coach firing during his time with the Cavs, Grizzlies and Rockets.

Clearly, Bickerstaff has a depth of experience that not many other coaches have on their resume which gives him the credentials to make him an NBA head coach. But, with the Cavs so up and down after the All-Star break, an unnerving trend is starting to emerge once again for a team led by Bickerstaff.

Coming out of the All-Star break, a team that is coached by Bickerstaff starts to sputter, especially after starting the regular season on a high note. When that momentum built by a Bickerstaff-coached team slows down, it hamstrings them come playoff time and results in an earlier-than-expected exit. For context, here's how things break down:

  • 2015-16 Houston Rockets (Interim head coach): 14-13 record post All-Star break, Lost to Golden State Warriors in first round (1-4)
  • 2017-18 Memphis Grizzlies (Interim head coach): 4-22 record post-All-Star break, Didn't make playoffs
  • 2018-19 Memphis Grizzlies: 10-13 record post-All-Star break, Didn't make playoffs
  • 2019-20 Cleveland Cavaliers (Interim head coach): 5-6 record post-All-Star break, Didn't make playoffs (season ended due to COVID-19)
  • 2020-21 Cleveland Cavaliers: 8-28 record post-All-Star break, Didn't make playoffs (COVID-19 shortened season)
  • 2021-22 Cleveland Cavaliers: 9-15 record post-All-Star break, 0-2 in the Play-In Tournament
  • 2022-23 Cleveland: Cavaliers: 13-8 record post-All-Star break, Lost to New York Knicks in first round (1-4)
  • 2023-24 Cleveland Cavaliers: 3-4 record post All-Star break (Season ongoing)

Bickerstaff blues

Cleveland Cavaliers head coach JB Bickerstaff in the second half against the Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

To be fair to Bickerstaff, the 2017-18 Grizzlies were riddled with injuries, with things dead on arrival ever after they replaced David Fizdale. Moreover, the Cavs were rebuilding in his early seasons in Cleveland, with things only coming to fruition during the 2021-22 season and when the team acquired Donovan Mitchell soon after.

But, there are several other instances where Bickerstaff has had the luxury of coaching players at their peak like James Harden, Dwight Howard, Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and even Mitchell and the team failed to match expectations. Or there are also times when Bickerstarff has had Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley and Darius Garland ascending, with or without Mitchell, and his teams have still plateaued and stalled out at the most inopportune times.

So, with things so topsy-turvy for this current iteration of the Cavs while exiting the All-Star break, there's a sudden albeit understandable feeling of dread sinking in. How does Cleveland fix it?

Well, with less than 25 games to go in the regular season, a coaching change wouldn't be a solution, it would be a death knell on this season. Instead, the Cavs will have to live, or die, with Bickerstaff at the helm and hope things start to click and Cleveland can be the second team to have a winning record after the All-Star break under Bickerstaff's coaching.

The more immediate changes Bickerstaff can make for the Cavs would start with switching up his rotations and lineups. Georges Niang is ice cold and Sam Merrill is red hot, which is a natural fit to breathe life into a sometimes directionless offense.

It'll also help when Mitchell (knee) and Caris LeVert (elbow) return from their nagging injuries that have kept them sidelined. But, because Cleveland is only 1-4 against winning teams after the All-Star break, the Cavs need to find some way to get some bite behind their bark.