The Cleveland Cavaliers are reportedly interested in former Memphis Grizzlies head coach J.B. Bickerstaff for the team’s head coaching position, adding another reported name to the list of potential candidates, and why Bickerstaff could be on the list is beyond me.
The Cleveland Cavaliers and general manager Koby Altman appear to be just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the 2019 offseason, and a major part of the current offseason is the team’s head coaching search.
As we’ve often noted, Cleveland and former head coach Larry Drew mutually parted ways earlier this month (which was initally reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium), leaving the Cavs’ head coaching position open.
According to Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor, the Cavaliers have already interviewed two candidates for the position in Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Jamahl Mosley and Miami Heat assistant coach Juwan Howard, and Fedor has also reported that Altman and the Cavs have a considerable number of others that could feasibly be candidates this offseason, too.
Adding to that sort of thing, it was reported on Tuesday by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the Cleveland Cavaliers received permission to interview two assistant coaches on the Portland Trail Blazers, in David Vanterpool and Nate Tibbetts, who are reportedly both highly-respected around the NBA, and they obviously together add two more reported names to Cleveland’s coaching search.
Another name was reported Tuesday as said to potentially be in Cleveland’s head coaching search, too, in former Memphis Grizzlies head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, according to the New York Times‘ Marc Stein.
Bickerstaff, has been in NBA coaching since 2004, with assistant roles on the Charlotte Hornets (2004-07), Minnesota Timberwolves (2007-2011), and Houston Rockets (2011-15), of which he actually took over as the head coach 11 games into the season for the fired Kevin McHale and went 37-34 in 2015-16 (per Basketball Reference), and then was an associate head coach with the Grizzlies for the 2016-17 and a bit of the 2017-18 season before taking on the team’s head coaching position after David Fizdale was fired 19 games in.
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With the Grizz, Bickerstaff largely underwhelmed, with a record of 48-97, per Basketball Reference. He was in a tough situation there, with star point guard Mike Conley only playing in 12 games of 2017-18 due to initially an Achilles injury and then surgery on his left heel (h/t Bleacher Report’s Scott Polacek), and the team traded star big Marc Gasol to the Toronto Raptors near the 2019 NBA trade deadline (but was going south with him, anyhow).
Nonetheless, Bickerstaff has not seemed to get the most out of his players in his time as a head coach.
Only six teams in the NBA had a lower net rating and true shooting percentage than Memphis in 2018-19 (per NBA.com), and additionally, it does not seem to be a glowing endorsement of Bickerstaff that Houston has turned into one of the better teams in the NBA since he left, as even two years ago, without Chris Paul as another playmaking maestro on the roster, the Rockets had the second-best offensive rating in the league (again, per NBA.com).
Along with that, Bickerstaff, whether it was his/his assistants’ faults or not, based on a report by ESPN’s Calvin Watkins, did not do a good job of keeping the Rockets’ locker room together, based on the prolonged awkwardness on and off the floor between Dwight Howard and the team’s superstar, James Harden, among other issues being the case throughout a season not exactly full of harmony.
Bickerstaff does not seem to be a retread that has shown he has much of a track record in developing young talent, or maximizing a team’s potential that has notable talent, whereas a potential head coaching candidate such as former Sacramento Kings head coach Dave Joerger, who is fresh off leading the Kings to their most wins in 13 years in 2018-19 (h/t USA TODAY’s Jeff Zillgitt), would make more sense if the Cavs/Altman went the retread route.
Our own Corey Casey, along with others, also touched on how it would be smart for Altman and company to hire a first-time and/or developmental coach that can help groom key pieces such as Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, Ante Zizic, and get the most out of younger players, such as the Cavs’ two draft selections in the 2019 NBA Draft, along with some veterans such as Tristan Thompson, Matthew Dellavedova and of course, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ best player, in Kevin Love.
Perhaps the Cleveland Cavaliers are just adding Bickerstaff’s name to the list to possibly interview, but I would certainly hope that he is not a serious candidate for a position he does not seem to be a good fit at all for.
I’m really coming around to you based on your asset-accumulation prowess displayed this past season, Mr. Altman. Please don’t backtrack and hire Bickerstaff.