The Toronto Raptors lost some of their player development skill over the last two-three years. Nick Nurse is gone, replaced with former Memphis Grizzlies assistant coach Darko Rajakovic.
Rajakovic should bring a fresh perspective to the team’s player development as he has a history of doing so throughout his career. Sixteen years into his coaching career, including a spell as head coach of the G League Tulsa 66ers, he witnessed 11 players over a two-year span get permanent call-ups to the NBA under his tutelage.
Since 2014, he has been an assistant for the Thunder, Suns, and Grizzlies. He has overseen the positive development of several players, from Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo to Desmond Bane, Ja Morant, and Jaren Jackson Jr. along the way.
As the tenth head coach of the Raptors, there is no reason this trend won’t continue. Players across the roster may see the most benefit initially from Rajakovic’s coaching and ability to teach new things to the more impressionable members of his roster.
3 Raptors who will benefit from Darko Rajakovic.
3. Christian Koloko
Drafted in the second round during the 2022 NBA Draft, Koloko was the only seven-footer in the Raptors organization until the Jakob Poeltl move. Raw offensively, Koloko is expected someday to be the man in the middle, gobbling up rebounds and rim-protecting on the defensive end of the court.
However, Koloko needs work and repetition of the basketball concepts he is taught. He somehow managed to play about 13 minutes in 58 games under Nick Nurse, averaging a blocked shot and 1.5 defensive boards per game. This is the kind of player Rajakovic loves.
Darko Rajakovic will be great for Christian Koloko.
If there is any doubt that whatever basketball talent is in Koloko can be found by Rajakovic, just look at the list of players he has helped become consistent, rotation if not starter quality NBA players. That list includes Memphis and OKC’s man in the middle in Adams, the mercurial Jaren Jackson, and Deandre Ayton.
While Koloko is going to have to be willing to put in the work to improve, there is strong evidence Rajakovic is the man to unlock talent potential in several key young Raptors players.