Bickerstaff – Right or Wrong Choice for This Year’s Team?

August 30, 2023

Tony Camino

J.B. Bickerstaff needs an improved playoff run to keep the job secure.

Plenty of things went wrong during the playoffs a year ago, and everyone is looking to point the finger at a few people to place all the blame on them. For the Cavs, Jarrett Allen and J.B. Bickerstaff are receiving the most heat from the fan base for the way last season ended. Simply put, the roster from a year ago was not constructed to make a run beyond the star players, and using that as a criticism of Bickerstaff isn’t fair to him.

  • 122-125 record with the Cavs
  • Took over a 19-win team, and the wins total has gone up every year.
  • 51 wins in ‘22-’23 was most without Lebron since ‘92-’93.

After the recent success in the regular season, the Cavs extended their contract through the 2026-27 season. Bickerstaff excels at getting his players to buy in, especially on the defensive end, and the players seem to genuinely enjoy playing under his leadership. The team greatly benefits from the culture and intangibles that Bickerstaff brings. However, his decisions and rotations must be well thought out this year to position the group for victory.

Playoff basketball prompts discussions about coaching adjustments more than any other time in the sport. While the primary adjustment is always to play better and play harder, there are occasions when rotations need to be altered to match up better against the opponent. During the previous postseason, the lack of spacing when Isaac Okoro, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen were on the court together created significant challenges against Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. Bickerstaff’s sole option to boost the offense with bench shooting was Cedi Osman or Danny Green. Osman saw the most increased role, and his defense was exposed against quicker guards. Jalen Brunson exploited him in the pick-and-roll, scoring on him numerous times.

With the additions of Max Strus, Georges Niang, and Ty Jerome, there has been a considerable improvement in shooting during this offseason. For the first time with the Cavs, Bickerstaff has a range of options to deploy diverse lineups based on the opponent. The combination of Strus and Niang provides a remarkable level of spacing compared to last year. Niang enables the Cavs to play a larger lineup while maintaining spacing, yet also offers the flexibility to downsize and field five shooters simultaneously. Bickerstaff must accurately navigate these decisions this year and make difficult choices regarding the lineup to give the players the best chance at victory.


Bickerstaff has played a significant role in this resurgence of relevance without LeBron James. His emphasis on culture, defensive mindset, and intensity assists the team in maintaining focus throughout the regular season, which translated to 51 wins last year. The roster demonstrated strength the previous year but lacked the diversity required to enable him to change the team’s strategy according to matchups. The moves made by the front office have introduced a considerable amount of versatility to the team. As the playoffs approach, Bickerstaff must make well-considered rotational choices to give the team an opportunity for a successful postseason run.

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