The Cleveland Cavaliers made progress this season, advancing to the second round of the playoffs after bowing out in the first round to the New York Knicks in 2023. However, it wasn’t enough to keep head coach J.B. Bickerstaff around, and the organization has now kickstarted its replacement search.

The Cavs are gearing up to interview a couple of assistants around the league, via ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

“Cleveland has been granted permission to interview Golden State assistant Kenny Atkinson and New Orleans assistant James Borrego for head coaching job,” Wojnarowski tweeted. “Cavs are beginning expansive interview process that will include several more candidates.”

Atkinson was the Brooklyn Nets’ head coach from 2016-2020, helping the team transition into its short-lived “Big Three” era with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden. After being pushed out, the 56-year-old took an assistant role with the Los Angeles Clippers before finally landing with the Warriors in 2021.

On the other hand, Borrego coached the Charlotte Hornets from 2018-2022, becoming the first Latino head coach in the history of the NBA. The 46-year-old was also an assistant in Orlando and San Antonio, winning rings with the Spurs in 2005 and 2007.

Do either of these individuals have a good chance of landing the job? Who would be a better fit?

Atkinson is the frontrunner, but the bottom line is that the Cavs need an experienced candidate

Golden State Warriors assistant head coach Kenny Atkinson during the second half against the Utah Jazz at Delta Center.

© Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Atkinson is reportedly the favorite to get the role, via The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd.

“Still hearing Kenny Atkinson as leader for Cavs job but don’t be surprised if Knicks associate head coach Johnnie Bryant’s name emerges,” Lloyd said. “Bryant was an assistant in Utah when Donovan Mitchell was there. Sounds like Dan Gilbert is heavily involved, more than I originally thought. ”

Bryant is an intriguing outsider candidate, as hiring him could be a way for Cleveland to keep Mitchell in town. The two formed a rapport with the Jazz from 2017-2020, and the Cavs can use any possible advantage they can get in Mitchell’s upcoming free agency decision. If he were to walk at the end of his deal, the team would have to rebuild again.

However, Cleveland may stick with someone who’s done the job before. With the Cavs being in win-now mode, a veteran head coach will have an easier time adjusting to the intense pressure right away. A rookie sideline leader is good for a long-term rebuilding project, but with Mitchell having a player option in 2025-2026, the team doesn’t have multiple years left to convince him to stay.

Meanwhile, Borrego continues to shop around, as he interviewed with the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, via the LA Times. While the San Diego alum never took the Hornets to the playoffs, his NBA resume spans over 20 years, and none of his Charlotte teams had top-shelf talent outside of LaMelo Ball the final two seasons. If he were armed with Mitchell, Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen, there’s no reason to think he couldn’t help the squad elevate.

No matter who gets hired, their goal will be to take the Cavs to the Eastern Conference Finals. If that doesn’t happen within the next two years, their seat will get hot.