Cavaliers GM David Griffin was unable to come to an agreement on a contract extension last summer with Cavs ownership and his contract will be up at the end of the season. Dave McMenamin reports that LeBron James would prefer that Griffin stick around for the long haul.
"It makes no sense why he shouldn't get an extension," James recently told ESPN. "He's pulled every move -- he's tried to make every move happen -- to better this team to be able to compete for a championship. So we wouldn't be in this position, obviously, without him and without the guys that are here -- from the coaching staff to the players to Griff. He's been a big piece of it."
James then went on to list off a series of moves that Griffin has engineered, including the trades for Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye and several more as evidence that Griffin is more than capable.
James went on to mention the general perception that he’s the one pulling the strings for the Cavaliers and went out of his way to show why that’s not necessarily the case.
"Obviously they always want to bring my name into it and say that obviously, it's easier because guys want to be here because I'm here," James told ESPN. "But at the end of the day, he still has to press the right buttons because I'm not in the war room, I'm not in the draft room with those [front office] guys. I don't know how much we may be over the luxury tax or if we have a trade exception here or how that's going to work there or how many days we got to do this. So, it wouldn't, seriously, I don't know why it would make any sense to bring in a new GM. That don't make no sense."
There’s a two-part reaction to this.
First, Griffin has clearly proved himself as one of the best GMs in the league based on a track record of mostly successful moves that led to a championship. More specifically, Griffin is a perfect GM for this team. We haven’t really seen him operate much within the context of the draft, but being a draft specialist isn’t really in Griff’s job description.
As long as the team’s core is together, they’re going to be over the salary cap. That’s just the reality of the situation. With that in mind, the best kind of GM for this Cavaliers team is one that finds value on the margins.
David Griffin expertly found an odd Brendan Haywood contract and flipped it into a trade exception that he flipped into Channing Frye, all while sending Anderson Varejao off for another trade exception that he used to bring in Kyle Korver, all while sending Mike Dunleavy and Mo Williams off for two more exceptions.
I’m convinced Griff has been broke enough to play the “if I get gas today it won’t clear til after payday” game. So slick with the money— Zigstan Thompson (@ZiggyOfAk) July 7, 2016
Griff isn’t without advantages, though. LeBron is obviously an enormous draw, and Dan Gilbert has really poured a ton of money into this team (perhaps so much poor Griff can’t get paid his due). That said, the salary cap has doomed a lot of teams that spent poorly or couldn’t get creative enough to find space at the margins, and that’s where Griff has excelled.
The second part of this is LeBron openly acknowledging that despite being perhaps the most powerful player in sports, he doesn’t pull all the strings, and even if he wanted to, it’s insane to imagine that he could do the dirty work that being a GM requires. Knowing the inner workings of the CBA, your team’s and the rest of the league’s cap sheets, scouting college players for the NBA draft and devising strategies to exploit all of those things is kind of its own job, and not one that LeBron could conceivably add to his pretty aggressive list of responsibilities.
It’s nice to see James actually mentioning the kinds of things he can’t really do for this team, because if just saying “I’m not in charge” in the abstract doesn’t really say much. Yes, LeBron has more input on the roster than almost every team in the league, but that doesn’t mean he’s doing the legwork and strategizing to get these deals done. The team leans on him, but that’s just smart business practice.
Griffin has done an excellent job thus far as the Cavaliers GM, and I’d be stunned to see this play out in any other way than a new deal.