We are now approaching the three-year anniversary of David Griffin becoming the general manager of the Cavs. He does not get a lot of credit for his efforts, but he has done a lot of work behind the scenes to help mold the Cavs into a championship roster.
I’m sure that LeBron James deciding to return in free agency and already having Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson on the roster probably distracts some people from the efforts he made to help bring Cleveland its first major professional sports championship since 1964. However, I think it is crazy that people around the league voted him only seventh in the Executive of the Year voting last year. Here is an overview of some of the things he has done since becoming the lead personnel man of the Cavs:
Traded Andrew Wiggins & Anthony Bennett for Kevin Love
During the last two years, many people have questioned whether this was the right move for the Cavs to make or not. This was especially true after the Cavs lost to the Warriors in the 2015 NBA Finals. ]Many Cleveland fans complained that Kevin Love didn’t fit in with Kyrie and LeBron and that they had to work too hard to get him involved in the offense. Others called out his deficiencies and said the Cavs could never win with him on the floor as a liability on defense.
They also talked about how it would have been nice to have another lengthy wing defender to help guard some of the Warriors guards in the finals. Offensive chemistry between ball-dominant players takes time and I haven’t heard anybody complaining about the trade since last June when Kevin Love put a hand in Steph Curry’s face as he missed the big shot in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. Love has also started this year off hot from behind the three-point arc and looks to have gelled nicely with LeBron and Kyrie. Ultimately, people get judged by championships, so this trade proved to be a winner for Griffin and the Cavs.
Traded Lou Amundson, Alex Kirk & Dion Waters for JR Smith & Iman Shumpert
He did what? I don’t mean to offend Lou Amundson and Alex Kirk because they could both make me look really bad at a local YMCA, but they aren’t even real NBA players. Dion Waiters was causing the Cavs chemistry issues because he didn’t want to fill his role and he thought he was a better player than Kyrie Irving. Essentially, Griffin traded that big mess for Iman Shumpert and agreed to take JR Smith off the Knicks’ hands. As it turns out, Iman Shumpert being injured at the time of the trade was the best thing the Cavs could have hoped for.
It forced the Cavs to start JR Smith after the trade and it turned out that a change of scenery was just what he needed to unlock his potential. He stopped his shenanigans and bought what LeBron sold him on how to win a championship. He kept shooting threes without a conscience and decided to buckle down and become one of the best wing defenders in the league. Even though he kind of faded into the background in the 2015 NBA Finals, he has been a huge piece to the puzzle and was a key factor to the Cavs winning the championship in 2016.
Shumpert has not been quite what the Cavs thought they were getting when they made the trade, but he has been a valuable player with the second unit and has improved his offense to a respectable level this season. He also made a key four-point play in Game 7 of the NBA Finals last year. There is no way the Cavs win the championship last year without the wing defense these two provided. This was another huge win for Griff and the Cavs.
Traded 2 first-round picks for Timofey Mozgov
Some people say that this was a bad deal for the Cavs. They gave up two first rounders for a guy that didn’t log a lot of minutes in the 2014-15 NBA Finals because the Cavs had to play with a smaller lineup and he couldn’t match up well on defense to the smaller Warriors players. He also really wasn’t a part of the rotation last season during the playoff run. In the 2014-15 season he averaged about 10 points and 7 rebounds a game which is pretty similar to Tristan Thompson’s numbers.
It also wasn’t really his fault that he did not match up well with the Warriors smaller lineups which made him a liability on defense in the NBA Finals that year. The Cavs did try to exploit his size on offense during a few games in the series and he actually had some success on the offensive end that had an impact in that series. He also did not recover well from his knee surgery and that had some influence on his effectiveness last season. I still think it was a pretty good deal, but some people will say they gave up too much for him. I’ll put this one up as a draw.
Firing David Blatt as coach while his team was leading the Eastern Conference
This was probably the move that took the most guts from Griffin. It’s a pretty big risk to fire your head coach during the middle of the season when your team is in first place in the conference. There seemed to be some friction between the players and Blatt because of his coaching style and how he ran things. Lue seemed to have a good relationship with the players and they seemed to respond really well to his style, so Griffin decided to make the hard decision and pull the trigger on the firing. It ended up being the right call as the players flourished under Lue and went on to win the championship.
Traded Anderson Varejao, Jared Cunningham & a pick for Channing Frye
Anderson Varejao was a fan-favorite and the longest tenured Cav at the time of the trade, so it caused a little backlash from fans at that time. Some people were still attached to Andy and a lot of people were skeptical about what Frye would actually bring to the team. I think everybody can agree that Andy wasn’t very effective anymore, and that was seen by him pretty much falling out of the rotation.
Frye was a perfect fit from day one on the floor and in the locker room. He did a great job of spotting up and knocking down threes in his role as a stretch four. By many accounts, he actually helped bring the locker room together with his enthusiasm for playing for a winner and helped become a leader with the second unit. This was definitely a big win for Griffin and it could get better depending on what he can do with the trade exemption he got from the deal.
Traded Mike Dunleavy, Jr., Mo Williams & a first-round pick for Kyle Korver
The jury is still out on this one, but it definitely looks good right now. Dunleavy was brought in during the off-season to be another sharpshooting wing but hasn’t really found his way into the rotation. Mo Williams has taken up a roster spot because of his refusal to just retire, so Griffin took two guys that were giving him nothing and a draft pick and turned them into one of the best catch-and-shoot scorers in the NBA. Korver should fit right in as a complementary shooter to help space the floor for LeBron and Kyrie and he will definitely help fill the void until JR Smith comes back. The results remain to be seen, but on paper, this looks like another huge victory for Griffin.
Looking at his body of work, I don’t think there is any way that people can argue that David Griffin is not one of the top executives in the NBA. Over the last few years, he has traded Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett (who is now out of the league), Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao, Mike Dunleavy, Mo Williams, a bunch of bench warmers and some draft picks. In return, he got Kevin Love, Iman Shumpert, JR Smith, Timofey Mozgov, Channing Frye and Kyle Korver. I would say that is a giant net return on talent. He also made a tough call on firing his coach in the middle of the season. The result of his effort is at least one NBA Championship, and his team should be in a position to add to that for years to come.