Wow! Covering the Cleveland Cavaliers before this NBA Draft has been a whirlwind. Take time to drive 20 minutes back to work and report after report comes out about what the Cavs are going to do with the #1 pick. Add to that everything surrounding NBA Free Agency, that happens quickly after the draft and is very connected to some draft decisions and you have an amazing time for Cavs writers, fans and the organization. It has been so fun and we have 2 days left of it.
The latest rumor, that there is a bidding war between the Orlando Magic (#4, 12 and Arron Afflalo), 76ers (#3, 10 and Thad Young) and the Utah Jazz (some combination of #5 and Derrick Favors plus maybe Alec Burks and/or #23). The Cavs are said to be interested in the Magic offer the most. That offer could get them Joel Embiid at #4 and more resources to make other deals. One interesting combination of moves includes trading Dion Waiters for a Top 10 pick (Lakers or Kings are possibilities). Then trading that pick with #12 from the Magic deal, along with another piece or pick combination to the Timberwolves for Kevin Love. Then sign LeBron James. A starting 5 of Kyrie Irving, Afflalo, James, Love and Embiid has to be intriguing to even the most die hard Andrew Wiggins fan, in fact it was:
Which brings us to this article: The Difficult Decisions of David Griffin. Making any decision in professional sports can be difficult. One wrong turn and a team can be sent off the rails quickly and your job may be lost. Yet for many GMs, especially first time ones, those decisions are relatively simple. Pick the best player. Sign the best player who will come to your team and fits a need. Trade your stuff for their better stuff. This is especially true in the NBA where the biggest roster is 15 and game day roster is 12, and most often 8 to 10 players play meaningful minutes.
Griffin has these type of decisions to make but so many factors (none bad mind you) leave them to all be difficult decisions:
- Griffin could draft 1 of the two wing players in Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker
- In any given draft each of these players would be a no brainer pick if they were alone in the draft. Yet together Griffin has to decide between the offensive skill of Parker with the defensive skill and potential offensive upside of Wiggins.
- Griffin can’t draft Joel Embiid #1 because of his foot and back.
- Griffin loves Embiid. Embiid was a shot blocker, with a low post game and can also shoot. Griffin could have the first true Stretch 5. A player who can bang down low but also pop out and shoot the corner 3. The perfect player for the offensive system Griffin thinks can work in the NBA. Yet Griffin can’t take him because he got injured. So all of the deals he is possibly looking at could still get him the player that he loves but also comes with the risk of long term injury, of passing on a stud wing player and accepting quantity over quality. The perfect pick for Griffin was ripped out from under him.
- Griffin could trade the pick for a more win now solution and there are plenty of options available.
- Griffin could make any of the above mentioned trades or deal #1 for Love directly yet there is a reason so many teams are offering so much for the #1 pick and a reason the #1 pick doesn’t get moved often. It tends to be a bad idea.
- Griffin could add 5 or more players to the Cavs 8 man rotation.
- Yet the NBA is a quality, not a quantity league. Though he could add 3 or 4 players for the #1 pick and sign a few starting level free agents, the NBA has always been dominated by superstars failing to acquire those is the death sentence for a team.
- Griffin has no idea if any of the big name, big talent players have any interest in signing with the Cavs in free agency.
- If he knew he could sign LeBron James, Gordon Hayward, Chandler Parsons or Carmelo Anthony to come to Cleveland, Griffin could build his roster around that star player. Yet with free agency on the other side of the draft Griffin has to try to find a player, or players, that he can build around but that could also fit with one of the stars he hopes to sign.
- Griffin has a highly competitive owner who wants to win.
- Griffin, like anyone, wants to keep his job but also has to do what he thinks is right in building the team in the vision that he has. Dan Gilbert is a highly involved owner who will push Griffin to get a winner on the floor right away. Gilbert also will allow Griffin to spend whatever he has to in order to acquire that winner. Yet does Griffin short circuit the right decision for the right now decision because of Gilbert?
- Griffin knows the Cavs are an option for LeBron James, the best player on the planet, and he knows he has to make the right moves to possibly get his signature on a contract.
- While he can’t plan around James, James is the player every organization should do whatever they can to acquire him. That includes his former employer. Yet Griffin also knows you can’t rely on James’ return to buoy the team. Making right now moves could help obtain James, but those are the type of moves that hurt the Cavs the last time he was here and shorted the Heat’s run in Miami.
- Griffin knows Kyrie Irving is both his best trade chip and his biggest draw for players.
- Irving hasn’t been the complete player needed to be the #1 player on a championship level team. Maybe he develops that, maybe he doesn’t but he is the type of player other players would want to play with and would be a great #2 pick. The Cavs could get the most by trading Irving, even more then the #1 pick. The Sixers may be willing to give up 3, 10 and Michael Carter Williams for Irving. The Cavs would then have 1, 3, 10 and MCW to run the point with Dion Waiters. Griffin could pair Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and whoever they drafted at #10 with those two and the host of other youth on the roster. Yet that roster would likely not draw any big time free agents to Cleveland. Irving alone does that.
- Griffin has money to spend, and will most likely spend it, but will he obtain value.
- A few years back the Chicago Bulls had a bunch of cap space. They chased a number of big name free agents, including Tim Duncan, but ended up signing Ron Mercer to a huge contract. (Yes it is so bad some of you younger readers need to look up who he was!) Griffin could be stuck in a similar situation. He has a ton of cap space to use, especially if he doesn’t make any trades during the draft with #1, but has no way to guarantee someone comes that is worth it. Instead of James, Anthony, Hayward or Parsons the Cavs could give a big contract to the aging, yet useful, Trevor Ariza. Another big contract to Josh McRoberts. Ask the Bulls how that works. Ask the Detroit Pistons with Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon clogging up their cap space for years. Yet Griffin needs to spend the money, he needs to improve the roster. What if they don’t come?
None of this is to make you feel bad for Griffin. Cavs fans have focused hard on being optimistic during this off-season and it is very refreshing. Unfortunately for every LeBron James/Carmelo Anthony/Andrew Wiggins dream that dances in our head another could be reality. Griffin doesn’t have easy choices in any of his decisions.
Yes he could take the guy who has been labeled the next Lebron James for years in Andrew Wiggins, but wow look how much teams are offering for that pick to build a solid deep team with Embiid hopefully.
Yes he can simply trade for Kevin Love and hope it is enough to draw James or Anthony to Cleveland, and that they would be enough to get Love to re-sign with the Cavs in the summer. Or he makes the trade, no star player comes, Love leaves in the off-season and Kyrie Irving looks for the first door out of town on a roster stripped down to get Love and lacking talent.
Yes he can offer a number of free agents big money but he can’t make them take it. He could be forced to over pay, by a lot, just to draw B type players to come to Cleveland to play for A type money leading to a C type team that could make it to the playoffs in the East but scare no one seeking a championship.
In many ways I envy Griffin. In some ways he has a ton of tough decisions, all inter-connected, to make over the next 2 weeks. And all of them are difficult. One day we shall write a book with this same title “The Difficult Decisions of David Griffin.” Will it be a Comedy? A Tragedy? A tale of Triumph? A tale of Woe? We won’t know for awhile. Buckle up David your story, your book starts Thursday.