Cleveland Cavaliers: David Griffin’s Top 5 Transactions as GM
David Griffin has been one of the league’s best General Managers in his time with Cleveland.
In 2014, the Cleveland Cavaliers weren’t happy with the way the rebuild had been going. After losing LeBron James to free agency in 2010, the Cavs had to start from scratch. Things started well with youngsters Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson outperforming expectations but the rebuild simply wasn’t going fast enough for the ownership’s liking. Therefore, in 2014, the Cleveland Cavaliers fired Chris Grant and named David Griffin as acting general manager.
Griffin has been an active GM every season, signing free agents, making trades, plotting for drafts and is active at the trade deadline. He’s made many moves during his tenure in Cleveland that have him heralded as one of the top men at his job. In 2015, Griffin came in second for the Executive of the Year award and he finished in the top ten this past year.
Let’s take a look at Griffin’s five best moves as general manager for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
5. Signing Lebron James
Alright, so Griff might not had much to do with this one, but it was still one of the most important things he’s ever done and a defining moment of his career. When LeBron decided to come home in 2014, all Griffin had to do was ink the deal. The Cavaliers were welcome to have the King back home. The deal was a two-year contract that would pay James $42.2 million.
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With this signing, suddenly Griffin was in control of a team that was expected to contend for a championship. This gave him the opportunity make trades and signings that were never possible for him before. Getting James back in the wine and gold may have been a deal that Griffin didn’t need to do much work for, but it opened up his career and gave him opportunities to do great things.
4. Firing David Blatt and Hiring Tyronn Lue
In the middle of the 2015-16 season, David Griffin made a decision that was unprecedented. While sitting atop the Eastern Conference with a record of 30-11 and coming off a season that ended with the franchise’s second NBA finals appearance, David Griffin fired Cavaliers’ head coach David Blatt.
A move like that had never been heard of before, and many questioned Griffin’s sanity to make a firing in the middle of a very successful season. Griffin said that his decision came due to a “lack of fit with our personnel and vision.” (ESPN) He went on to talk about locker-room morale and the lack of camaraderie between teammates.
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Griffin’s replacement, Ty Lue, was a perfect fit with the team and solved the exact problem he suggested. Lue is a players’ coach who breathed life into a team that was just going through the motions. Soon, the team became known for how close they were with one another and their chemistry showed on the court as well.
The move was still in question for the rest of the season, but when Lue went on to lead the Cavaliers to their first NBA championship all naysayers were silenced. David Griffin had done it again and made the hard choice that made all the difference.
3. Acquiring Channing Frye
As the trade deadline approached last season, the Cavaliers were struggling to keep up with historic pace of the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors were on a rampage, bowling their way through the regular season to the best record of all-time at 73-9. Cleveland knew they needed to make a roster change to be able to have a chance in a seven-game-series, and David Griffin came through.
In a three-team trade Cleveland sent Anderson Varejao and a first-round pick to Portland and Jared Cunningham to Orlando in exchange for Channing Frye. Immediately fans were sad to see longtime Cavalier Varejao depart. However, soon people found Channing to be a perfect fit on the roster and huge upgrade from the aging Varejao.
When Channing hit seven threes in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against Atlanta, it was obvious that Griffin had struck gold again. His hot shooting and floor-spacing helped the Cavs overcome the Warriors and win those long-awaited rings.
2. Trading for Kevin Love
After LeBron made his decision to come home David Griffin had some decisions to make. He knew he had to turn this team into a contender and surround LeBron with the talent he needed to win a ring. To Griffin the best way to do this was to give him another superstar.
In a three-team deal the Cleveland Cavaliers parted with two number one picks, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins, as well as a future first-round pick in exchange for Kevin Love. This trade completed the Cavaliers’ core and made them instant NBA-title favorites. Kevin didn’t fit in right away, and as his stats dropped many fans questioned whether the trade was really the right move.
As Love continued to take a backseat to James and Irving fans called for Love to be traded for someone who would fit with the team better, Griffin stuck with Love through thick and thin, however, and it paid off. Love was an integral part of the Cavs winning their first championship and has stepped up his production even further this season. He’s looking forward to what will most likely be his first All-Star selection as a Cavalier this season.
1. Trading for Iman Shumpert, JR Smith, and Timofey Mozgov
In the middle of the 2015-16 season the Cavaliers were barely treading water. After acquiring LeBron James and Kevin Love in the off-season to complete the “big three” with Kyrie Irving, the Cavs had hopes of a title. Instead they found themselves sitting at .500 almost halfway through the season. They had all known it would take awhile for the players to gel together, but it had become abundantly clear that something was wrong with the roster construction. It was up to David Griffin to do something to revitalize this team before things got out of hand.
Griffin responded by pulling off two miraculous deals that bolstered the Cavs’ roster and send them on a huge winning streak. First he shipped out Dion Waiters, Alex Kirk, Lou Amundson and a second-round pick for Iman Shumpert, JR Smith, and a protected first-rounder. Then later the same week he sent that first-rounder along with one of the Cavaliers’ first-round picks to Denver in exchange for rim-protector Timofey Mozgov.
Griffin somehow turned one starting player and some wasting veterans into three core pieces for the Cavs’ Finals run, as well as their title run the following year. This trade helped turn a team struggling to stay at .500 to the one that rolled through the Eastern Conference on their way to the NBA Finals. David Griffin performed magic by taking what seemed like nothing and turning into three players that gave them team energy and hope where there wasn’t any.
Griffin’s been a fantastic GM for years and the Cavaliers are lucky to have him. He’s pulled off some great moves during his time in Cleveland and the team, franchise, and fans are all better off for it. You can safely say that without him Cleveland would likely still be facing a cold and bitter title drought.