Head coach No. 1: Mike Budenholzer
If the goal of an NBA head coach is to lead a team to win basketball games and compete for championships, it’s hard to find a better candidate than Mike Budenholzer. In five seasons as the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, he led them to 271 wins (an elite 69.3 percent win percentage), then added another 39 wins in the postseason. That included a championship run in 2021.
Budenholzer instilled core principles on offense and defense that elevated the floor of the Bucks, then built on those to add more creativity and advanced concepts to maximize his specific players. Budenholzer was accused of holding to those core principles too tightly at times, but he appeared to grow in his flexibility as the seasons went on. It’s not like it didn’t work at least once.
Budenholzer wasn’t a perfect coach in Milwaukee, and he isn’t at the cutting edge of creative playoff adjustments; that’s why he was fired. Yet he has a track record unlike any other viable coaching option for the Cavs and literally can’t be described as a coach who “can’t win in the playoffs.” That’s a reductive argument and it’s literally been proven wrong.
Coach Bud may be the right option to get the most out of this group specifically as well, especially if the Cavaliers stick with the pairing of Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. He used a similar defensive pairing in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez to craft league-best defenses over the past half-decade and could do so again.
If the Cavaliers want a proven head coach, it’s hard to conclude anyone other than Mike Budenholzer should be at the top of their list.