Despite their 25-12 record and second-place position in the Eastern Conference, the Milwaukee Bucks have been a mess all season. They are not playing up to the level the fans were expecting them to after acquiring Damian Lillard in a blockbuster trade in the offseason. The team ranks ninth in the NBA in terms of net rating, behind conference foes the Celtics, Sixers, and the Knicks. The most disappointing part of it all is the fact that they rank 20th on defense in the entire league.
A team that has two All-Defense caliber players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez should not be this bad defensively. The defensive scheme, effort level, and discipline have been lacking all year, and that is on the coaching staff.
Adrian Griffin, the first-time head coach, who took over the job from Mike Budenholzer this offseason, has failed to take this team to the next level. On the contrary, the Bucks have taken a step back on many fronts compared to coach Bud's teams.
Griffin has failed to get the buy-in of his players. A day doesn't go by without a Bucks player saying something troubling to the media. There were reports earlier in the season about a heated exchange between Bobby Portis, the players, and the coaching staff. Antetokounmpo has criticized the team's effort level on plenty of occasions, most recently after the loss against the Houston Rockets on January 8th.
"Your defensive effort, though, has got to be there. And defensively, our effort was not there. There was no pride."- Giannis Antetokounmpo
It is rather obvious that the team isn't playing hard. They consistently fail to get back on defense, allow way too many transition opportunities, and give up drives to the basket too easily.
The vibes around the team have simply been off all season. If your players aren't playing hard for you and are constantly talking negatively to the media, your days as a head coach are numbered. It is hard to see Adrian Griffin staying in his position for much longer.
Fortunately for Milwaukee, there are plenty of head coaches on the market who could replace Griffin and carry this team to a championship.
1. Mike D'Antoni
Coach D'Antoni is one of the most creative coaches in NBA history. An incredible offensive mind, D'Antoni has created some of the most groundbreaking teams ever, starting from the Steve Nash-led Phoenix Suns to most recently, the James Harden-led Houston Rockets. These teams were not only offensive juggernauts, but they also consistently overachieved. He was able to turn both Nash and Harden into MVP-level players with his system.
The 72-year-old is currently a coaching consultant with the New Orleans Pelicans and he hasn't coached in over three seasons. Perhaps there hasn't been the right situation for him since it's hard to see him working for a non-contender at this stage of his career. An NBA championship is the only thing missing in his illustrious career, so returning to coaching for the Bucks could be the ideal scenario for him.
D'Antoni's offensive mastermind, combined with Damian Lillard's firepower could make for an unstoppable offense. If he is ready to come back to coaching, even on a short-term contract, he is worth a look.