How David Griffin Overhauled Cleveland Cavaliers Bench

Feb 18, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin talks with the media before the game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 18, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin talks with the media before the game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Cleveland Cavaliers GM David Griffin transformed his organization’s roster and bench as his team gears up for its NBA title defense.

LeBron James addressed the media in New Orleans after a 2-point loss to Pelicans–a good team, but not so great the defending champion Cavaliers should struggle so mightily against. James demanded a playmaker and decreed the roster to be “top heavy.”

His GM, David Griffin, responded, overhauling the Cavaliers bench and significantly improving the team’s roster.

But it wasn’t a quick process.

The Cavaliers bench on Opening Night consisted of Richard Jefferson, Iman Shumpert, James Jones, Channing Frye, Mike Dunleavy, The Birdman, Jordan McRae, DeAndre Liggins. Mo Williams was clinging to the roster with a serious knee injury.

Now, Dunleavy, Anderson, McRae, and Williams are gone.

In their place, the Cavs now have Deron Williams, Derrick WilliamsKyle Korver and Andrew Bogut.

So, just how did Griffin, a GM swimming in the luxury tax  with limited trade assets somehow find a way to make Cleveland’s roster significantly better?

Korver was the first trick up Griffin’s sleve.

At the time of the Korver trade, Griff didn’t have a lot to trade, but he had some assets to play with. He ended up sending a 2017 first-round draft pick, along with an underperforming Dunleavy , along with Williams to Hawks for the sharpshooting Korver. The draft pick stuff gets confusing, but the Cavs didn’t have a draft pick this year. Portland owned it as a result of last season’s Anderson Varejao deal. Griffin convinced Portland to give it back to Cleveland and to take 2018’s first-rounder instead. This allowed Cleveland to move the 2019 first-round pick to Atlanta for Korver. Per the Stepien Rule, you can’t be without consecutive first-round picks.

Atlanta traded Williams to Denver in January. He was waived shortly after. He hasn’t played at all this season, and at 34, his career is likely over.

Dunleavy is averaging 5.1 points per game. He didn’t make the impact Cleveland thought he could when they acquired him last summer from the Bulls.

After a sluggish adjustment period, Korver has been superb from 3-point territory. He shot 59 percent from 3 beyond the arc in February–an unbelievably crazy good number we should all hold our children to.

Even after the Korver trade, Cleveland struggled with miserable results in January. That’s when LeBron went off script, ripping the Cavaliers for carrying an empty roster spot and demanding the team roster get better.

The basketball world awaited Griffin’s next move, and when it happened, it wasn’t the kind of acquisition everyone expected.

Griffin’s next move was to sign Derrick Williams, the former No.2 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, to a 10-day contract. Williams, 25, was living up to his label as a “tweener,” a 6-foot-9 athlete without a position. Williams had been averaging 5.9 points and 2.9 rebounds in 25 games with the Miami Heat, his fourth team in six seasons as a pro.

It turns out, Williams has found a home in Cleveland. LeBron hopes he’s a Cavalier “long-term.” In seven games with the Wine & Gold, Williams is averaging 10.1 points and 3.4 boards per game. He looks more comfortable by the minute.

But Williams couldn’t be the only move Griffin would make. LeBron doesn’t go on a crazy rant and all you deliver him is Derrick Williams, right?

Rumors were off the charts as speculation had Carmelo Anthony landing in Cleveland before the NBA trade deadline. Pundits, scribes and fans watched with intrigue waiting to see what Griffin would do with really nothing to trade. If the Cavs were going to take on a huge contract, they’d have to give one up. Despite winning Cleveland an NBA title, Kevin Love found his name being floated around the NBA rumor mill for yet another season.

Things were said. Fans questioned LeBron’s advocacy of paying J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson lucrative contracts. Twitter made some look like fools.

As the deadline clock approached 3 p.m. on Feb. 23, the Cavs were active. They were checking in on players and doing their due diligence, according to various media reports.

Ultimately, the team did nothing, though. But the trade season would not be the end of player movement.

The second the trade deadline passed, rumors and reports jumped into social media. Everyone tried connecting the dots as more than a few high-profile, buyout candidates were connected to the Cavs.

Dallas and Cleveland talked  about a Deron Williams trade, but it was likely to much for Cleveland to absorb D-Will’s $9 million contract. The Mavericks have a rookie point guard named Yogi Ferrell, who’s the franchise’s future at the position. Williams became expendable and the Mavericks bought him out.

The Cavs got him for basically nothing. No trade. No assets leaving. No huge luxury burden on Dan Gilbert. Just the vet minimum. Williams is averaging 13.1 points and 6.9 assists and shooting 34.8% on 3’s. This is the playmaker, backup point guard James wanted.

More from Factory of Sadness

Before the deadline, the Mavericks traded Andrew Bogut to the 76ers. Dallas got Nerlens Noel. Philly got Justin Anderson and a conditional first-round pick. Bogut was a part of the trade because Dallas wanted to dump his salary. He never wanted to play for Philadelphia. The 76ers tried to find a second trade before the deadline clock expired, but couldn’t.

Bogut was waived by Philadelphia before March 1, which made him eligible to play in the postseason for his new team. Cleveland waived McRae to create a roster spot for Bogut, who was averaging 8.3 rebounds per game. With the 12-year vet on th roster, Cleveland now has a true rim protector, something that’s been missing ever since Timofey Mozgov left for the Lakers.

The Birdman was traded with can to the Hornets in mid February. Cleveland got a protected second-round pick in return.

McRae, Birdman, Dunleavy and Williams became Korver, Derrick Williams, Deron Williams and Bogut.

It was a gradual process, but Cleveland’s roster is better, as the Cavaliers set to Defend the Land and bring the franchise its second Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Next: Cavs Uniform To Have Significant Change Next Season

Not sure if Griffin’s got a side job with the U.S. Postal Service, because one thing’s for sure: He delivers.