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Kenny Atkinson reported leader to be next head coach of Cavaliers

2024 SoFi Play-In Tournament - Golden State Warriors v Sacramento Kings

SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 16: Assistant Coach Kenny Atkinson of the Golden State Warriors coaches during the game against the Sacramento Kings during the 2024 Play-In Tournament on April 16, 2024 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2024 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

Cleveland is a win-now team, making it a longshot that they would hire a rookie head coach to replace J.B. Bickerstaff. They want somebody who has sat in that chair before.

Enter former Brooklyn Nets coach and current Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson, the early leader for the job reports Jason Lloyd of The Athletic.

When ownership is involved in a coaching search (or with player and roster decisions) things can swing a lot more unpredictably. That said, Atkinson would be a good hire.

Atkinson coached four seasons in Brooklyn and helped build a culture and turn the Nets into the kind of team Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving would want to play on. However, Atkinson didn’t mesh with the two stars and he was quickly pushed out. He was nearly hired as the head coach of the Charlotte Hornets in 2022 (agreeing in principle to take the job while the Warriors were in the NBA Finals), but the deal for him to go to Charlotte fell apart during final negotiations.

Cleveland still has the door open to a number of candidates as it heads into a summer of change.

The biggest tipping point for the Cavaliers this summer is whether Donovan Mitchell will sign a max contract extension — if he signs it the team could look to trade Darius Garland, as the Garland/Mitchell backcourt has not lifted this team up as hoped. If Mitchell does not sign the extension, the Cavaliers need to consider trading the All-Star rather than letting him walk out the door for nothing in the summer of 2025. Then there are questions about the frontline pairing of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, especially if Mobley is given a max or near-max contract extension this summer. Cleveland GM Koby Altman said he doesn’t expect major roster changes this summer, but there needs to be some if this team is going to compete at the highest levels of the East.

Whatever the roster looks like, the coach who is hired will face pressure to win now—those are the expectations in Cleveland going forward.