Skip to main content

Ranking the NBA's head coaching jobs

Which NBA team has the best head coaching job? How about the worst? We rank all 30 gigs.

Get all of Rohan Nadkarni's columns as soon as they’re published. Download the new Sports Illustrated app (iOS or Android) and personalize your experience by following your favorite teams and SI writers.

For most teams in the NBA, the off-season is already well underway.

Most organizations will aim to re-shuffle their rosters in the summer to come, but some teams like the Kings, Timberwolves and Nets have already undergone big changes, bringing in new coaches to revive or push their franchises forward. Meanwhile, other squads like the Knicks, Rockets, Pacers and Grizzlies are still searching for the right fit to be their voice of the future.

In the spirit of the always-weird NBA off-season (seriously, Dave Joerger? The Kings?!), we decided to rank every head coaching job in the league. In other words, if every single NBA job were available right now, which would be the most attractive? The best choice may be obvious, the rest not so much...

Without further ado, here's a (highly) subjective ranking of all 30 head coaching jobs in the NBA:


Don’t take these jobs

Stay away at all costs...

30. Brooklyn Nets: This is such a bleak job. No young talent. A somewhat oft-injured center. Jay Z doesn’t own part of the team anymore, and he was ruined by Beyoncé anyway. They should just change their color scheme from black and white to all gray.

29. Sacramento Kings: Vivek Ranadivé is arguably the worst owner in sports, VladeDivac is completely unproven (yet calling the shots!) and DeMarcus Cousins probably already hates you. Also, you’ll be looking for a new job within a year.

28. Phoenix Suns: Not a great ownership situation, and trending down since their one surprising season in 2014. Devin Booker is a nice piece, but have you seen that Tyson Chandler contract? Woof.

We have some guys

These aren’t bad jobs, but the franchises have some things to prove...

27. Orlando Magic: Aaron Gordon and Mario Hezonja are very exciting, though Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo are somewhat redundant in the backcourt. There’s some potential here for the Magic, and they could be an intriguing free-agent destination.

26. Philadelphia 76ers: I don’t hate the 76ers job by any means, but the franchise needs be stable for a year before its wealth of assets really becomes appealing. Winning the lottery would help, as would not trying to actively lose games.

25. Denver Nuggets: The Manimal is currently the best nickname in the NBA, and Nikola Jokic is a fun player to have at center. This team is a weird mashup of veterans and somewhat promising youth, but they have the right players to trade for a disgruntled star.

• MORE NBA: NBA Mock Draft 3.0: Final projections before the lottery



Let me explain

Just calm down.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers: Their last coach was fired despite having the best record in the East and leading them to the Finals the year before. Their current coach was once used as a towel rack. LeBron will always get the credit, the expectations are through the roof and the West team will always be favored in the Finals. What makes this such a good job again?

Middle-class milieu

Your guess is as good as mine.

23. Atlanta Hawks: If Al Horford leaves, they are in serious trouble. But it feels like this team has one more run in them, and free agents may be more willing to hear Atlanta out in light of recent success. Also, the organ player is an absolute legend.

22. New York Knicks: Kristaps Porzingis is one of the most tantalizing prospects in the NBA and Melo’s game has a chance to age well. I still think free agents are interested in playing here, but Phil Jackson and James Dolan have yet to prove they are capable of properly running a team from the top.

21. Memphis Grizzlies: This team looks like it’s on its last legs and has a low-key confusing management situation. Marc Gasol is great, but the Grizzlies look headed for a massive rebuild sooner rather than later. If I took this job, I would make this kid my assistant.

20. Houston Rockets: One season ago, James Harden was the NBA players’ choice for MVP. And it appears free agents have some level of interest in playing here. You could build around worse players than Harden, but Daryl Morey should try hitting a couple doubles before swinging for his next home run.



Solid head starts

Starter-kit franchises that have some appeal...

19. Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis, Jabari, and Khris Middleton are a promising core, and though the signing hurt their defense, Greg Monroe’s decision to choose the Bucks over the Knicks bodes well for future free-agent negotiations. I like this team!

18. Utah Jazz: RudyGobert, Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors could all be building blocks... or maybe part of a trade for a star player. This is also a fairly low-pressure gig, and Utah seems like a place with a lot of natural beauty? I've never been to Utah, it just feels that way.

17. Detroit Pistons: Andre Drummond can be a force, although his defense and foul shooting are legitimate concerns. Ownership made a bold move when it decided to swallow the rest of Josh Smith's onerous contract. This franchise also has a proud history, and the Bad Boys 30 for 30 gets me hyped every time I watch it.

16. Charlotte Hornets: Honestly, the potential for free Jordan gear is the No. 1 selling point here.

15. Indiana Pacers: Paul George is a legit two-way superstar, and Kevin Pritchard and Larry Bird are two smart front-office minds. Indiana is a basketball madhouse, even if I’d rather watch Coach Carter than Hoosiers.

14. Toronto Raptors: Love the fan base, love MasaiUjiri and Views was meh but I’d cop some OVO gear if it was on the table. If this team can keep the core together and keep making smart moves, it will continue to challenge in the relatively weak East.

• MORE NBA: Pacers fire Vogel: Why Bird decided to make risky move

The lurking stars

Do you want to coach this player?

13. Washington Wizards: John Wall!

12. New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Davis!



Holding out hope

Pros outweigh the cons?

11. Chicago Bulls: Chicago’s front office is largely unsupportive, but Jimmy Butler is a great building block, and Chicago is one of the country’s great basketball cities. The fan base is awesome, and I loved the way they rallied around Thibs. The Bulls often catch the eye of free agents, and one more semi-decent star would vault them into the East conversation.

Clutch front office

Just move to Portland.

10. Portland Trail Blazers: Neil Olshey was second in Executive of the Year voting despite receiving the most first-place votes. The fans are awesome, the coffee shops are hip and Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are super exciting. They will build something special if Olshey keeps working his magic.

Durant dependent

KD or bust.

9. Oklahoma City Thunder: If Kevin Durant leaves, this job jumps to the bottom, because it would be much harder to bring back Russell Westbrook in that case. If both of them stay? It’s not a perfect situation, but the fans are great and the reward is massive.


High potential

Good jobs all of a sudden!

8. Los Angeles Lakers: Jerry Buss antics notwithstanding, this is an organization willing to pay deep into the luxury tax, boasts a couple of exciting young players and has enough caché to command a face-to-face meeting with any star free agent. They will be good again.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns is the best prospect in the NBA, and their young core will grow together.

Good situations

The upper echelon of gigs.

6. Dallas Mavericks: Dirk is close to the end, but Mark Cuban is a loyal guy willing to spend any amount of money to build a winner. There’s usually a good energy around this franchise, and a coach who works in tandem with the front office would have great job security.

5. Boston Celtics: One of the best followings in the league, a wealth of assets and intriguing young players and a front office willing to embrace basketball’s new age. They need to make a couple moves, but Boston is headed in the right direction, and always on the verge of something big.

4. Los Angeles Clippers: I think Steve Ballmer means really well, and you could do worse than having your choice of building around Blake Griffin or Chris Paul.



Culture Kings

Pretty much as good as it gets.

3. Miami Heat: Once you’re in, you’re in for life. Great weather, supportive owner and Pat Riley’s wisdom. Current roster isn’t perfect by any means, but the franchise will always be in the mix when superstars are available. Did I mention the weather?

2. San Antonio Spurs: An organization that’s bred a culture of sacrifice and collaboration. R.C. Buford has won Executive of the Year two of the last three seasons. Charles Barkley may not be a fan, but you’ll be set up for success.

• ​MORE NBA: The Boris Experience: Spurs' Diaw as unique as they come

Stephen Curry division

AKA, the end game.

1. Golden State Warriors: You can coach the most unstoppable player in the game. The last guy who filled in won his first 24 games. It's that simple.