- Ezra Shaw/Getty
It was reported on Monday that the Cleveland Cavaliers are not going to bring back GM David Griffin, whose contract is up at the end of June.
The move could have several implications, one of which is LeBron James’ happiness with the decision.
James had publicly advocated for Griffin’s contract extension and was reportedly caught off-guard by the decision on Monday. He tweeted a message of support when news broke, saying, “If no one appreciated you Griff I did.”
The decision not to bring back Griffin could only further push the rumors that James may leave the Cavs in 2018 and head out west to teams like the Los Angeles Lakers or Clippers. If that’s the case, one of Griffin’s departing gifts could be preparing the Cavs in case of the nightmare scenario in which James skips town.
As Griffin explained at the MIT Sloan Sports and Analytics Conference in March, there has been a resounding desire within the Cavs to win now. That’s led the team to willingly trade first-round picks to acquire game-ready veterans. However, Griffin also said that he made sure the picks were protected in the event James or the other Cavs stars are no longer on the team.
“We’re only going to be remembered for tarnishing LeBron’s legacy. We’re not going to be remembered for being part of building it. We’ve been given like a sacred trust in this guy, and it’s our job to win right now, and everyone feels that. Ownership feels that, ownership invests in it. When you have that amount of clarity, it makes doing things like trading protected firsts make sense. It may not look good on the books moving forward and people may look at it and say, ‘Oh my god, they’ve mortgaged their future.’ Well, if LeBron and Kyrie [Irving] and Kevin [Love] are gone, and we become a lottery pick, we’ll have those picks because they’re protected.”
Though the Cavs don’t have their own first-round pick this year, they do have their 2018 first-round pick. And as Griffin seems to be referring to, the Cavs traded a 2019 first-round pick to the Atlanta Hawks for Kyle Korver this season. The pick, however, is top-10 protected, so that in the event the Cavs begin losing, they’ll have a lottery pick.
Likewise, the Cavs have run into a bit of luck when it comes to locking up their core. Though they have $128 million already on the books for the 2018-19 season, that includes LeBron James’ $35 million salary, which he will likely opt out of. Meanwhile, Love, Irving, Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, and Iman Shumpert are all locked into below-market contracts because they were signed before the huge salary-cap spike. The core costs a lot now, but the deals will be bargains in the future and could likely be moved if the Cavs decide to rebuild.
It’s not the rosiest future – no teams likes to imagine a scenario in which a generational talent leaves them – but the Cavs’ outlook isn’t as bleak as it may appear. While Griffin reportedly had a different vision than owner Dan Griffin going forward, the Cavs should be glad that Griffin helped them get to their current standing without mortgaging the future.