The Toronto Raptors have been subjected to a serious brain drain in the last few years, as many of their best assistant coaches. Not only did Nick Nurse find new employment elsewhere, but assistants like Adrian Griffin found head coaching work (albeit to varying degrees of success).
With Nate Bjorkgren getting fired after one season with the Pacers and Chris Finch turning the Timberwolves into arguably the favorites in the Western Conference, Griffin was going to be the tiebreaker in the great debate over Nurse assistants and their viability as head coaches.
Griffin could not have been handed a better situation in his first year as a head coach, as he was joining a ready-made championship contender that has Giannis Antetokounmpo playing some of the best basketball of his career and Damian Lillard making his mark in town. After just half of one season, Griffin is already on his way out.
The once highly-regarded candidate was fired as head coach of the Bucks despite a strong start in the standings. With the Raptors having looked at Griffin extensively in the quest to replace Nurse, they appear to have made a better choice in letting him go to Milwaukee and going with Darko Rajakovic.
Toronto Raptors dodged a bullet after Bucks' Adrian Griffin firing
If Griffin's firing comes as an extreme surprise, that is more than understandable. Milwaukee currently has the second-best offense in the league and is averaging over 124 points per game. The Bucks are 30-13, good for second in the Eastern Conference and tied for second across the entire NBA, and have won five of their last six games.
Griffin's biggest issues seem to be on the defensive side of the ball, as Milwaukee ranks 21st in defensive rating one year after coming in fourth with largely the same personnel. Trading Jrue Holiday to acquire Lillard obviously contributed to that, but that fall-off seemed cavernous.
The Raptors are struggling with Rajakovic right now, but he was hired to be an offensive coach. If nothing else, the offense is much better thanks to his exceptional ball movement. If Griffin was hired to further improve on the defense, he failed in a fairly epic fashion.
Rajakovic has the Raptors set up to at least be an interesting team to watch as he works his player development magic with a young, rebuilding team. Even though the record might not show it, the Bucks seem to believe that trying to replicate the formula Nurse had in Toronto hasn't produced the results they wanted.