While the Cleveland Cavaliers continue their journey back to the NBA Finals, a concerning narrative continues to bubble below the surface. Thanks to the distraction of playoff basketball, it seems as though Cavs fans aren’t paying as much attention to said rumor as they should be.
Over the past couple weeks, Cleveland GM David Griffin has been linked to the Orlando Magic. The reports have gone from the team considering him for its President of Basketball opening to the expectation Griffin will actually receive an offer for said job as soon as the postseason concludes. Lately, both Brian Windhorst of ESPN and Jeff Schudel of The News-Herald in Cleveland have spoken to sources who believe Griffin will indeed be in Florida next season.
As you can see, this certainly doesn’t appear to be a story we should be shrugging off. The motto has always been “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” Right now, there’s no shortage of smoke regarding Griffin’s potential departure.
In part, I understand why the coverage hasn’t been intense when it comes to this development. Some of this is due to the fact many are of the belief that the team has LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, therefore losing the GM wouldn’t be that big of a deal.
Those people are wrong. So very wrong.
Sure, much of Cleveland’s recent success is based on James making his fateful homecoming announcement in the summer of 2014. While Griffin pulled the trigger on some moves to free up cap space for James’ return, this team doesn’t win a championship without the best player in the NBA deciding to come back to Ohio.
However, to use this as an attempt to discredit the value of Griffin would be painfully incorrect. The work he’s done to assemble this entire roster is a huge factor in the success Cleveland has seen.
Remember, it was Griffin who turned a grumpy Dion Waiters into J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. It was Griffin who swapped the oft-injured Anderson Varejao for stretch forward Channing Frye. It was Griffin who dealt an ineffective Mike Dunleavy for sharpshooter Kyle Korver.
Each of these deals, wherein Griffin dealt an ill-fitting piece in return for a key contributor, deserves its fair share of praise. They also highlight the work Cleveland’s GM has done to give this team as much help as possible despite the minimal cap space available at his disposal.
With all of this evidence proving Griffin’s worth to the team, why would there be any reason for him to leave? Well, if the reports are true, he definitely has a good excuse to look at other options.
Griffin’s contract expires at the end of this season. However, there have reportedly been no substantial talks between he and owner Dan Gilbert. Some stories claim the Cavs’ owner isn’t willing to pay Griffin a salary which compares to other championship winning GMs.
I would hope such a rumor isn’t true, due mostly to how inexplicable it would be for Gilbert to try and underpay Griffin. Consider, too, the fact both James and coach Tyronn Lue have both publicly stumped for the team to keep its GM in tow, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a reason why Gilbert would be willing to let him walk.
However, based on everything we’re hearing, such a scenario is frighteningly likely. If Griffin were to leave, the impact his departure would have on the Cavs would be significant.
There’s remarkably little wiggle room when it comes to improving Cleveland’s roster, due mostly to having three max contracts on the books. As a result, Griffin has had to work an incredible amount of magic to tinker and improve the team, including the savvy deals listed above. In letting him leave, the Cavs would be losing someone who’s proven to be a mastermind at assembling a championship-worthy supporting cast despite working with a shoestring budget.
I honestly can’t say I’m aware of anyone else in the league who’d be able to pull off the trades Griffin swung and also be available for hire. If I’m Gilbert, I don’t even flirt with such a situation.
Cleveland’s owner has never shied away from opening up his checkbook, and Griffin has more than proven to be worth the money. To let another team snatch him up while trying to save a little dough is something which could backfire in a bad way.
Here’s hoping Gilbert comes to this realization. Preferably soon.
Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook