Blogtable: How will David Griffin's departure affect Cleveland Cavaliers' future?
Each week, we ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
* * *
Cleveland has parted ways with GM David Griffin, who guided the Cavs to three-straight appearances in the NBA Finals. What does this mean for Cavs? For LeBron James?
* * *
Steve Aschburner: David Griffin’s abrupt exit might not mean a ton now, but good luck this season with the sort of duct-taping of the roster he managed (Kyle Korver, Derrick Williams, Deron Williams) en route to a third straight Finals. When LeBron James called for enhancements, we didn’t see Griffin bristle or cower – he just got to work like the pro he is. Unless the Cavaliers’ reconfigured front office can land Paul George or some other notable difference-maker, the East champs will have a “what-if” asterisk attached to this season. And that likely will lead to the biggest domino: this provides a ready-made excuse or even nudge for James, should he decide to mosey to greener grass next summer.
Fran Blinebury: It means that team owner Dan Gilbert better get the pick of David Griffin’s replacement right. For all the jokes about LeBron James being the “real” GM, Griffin made the key moves that put Cleveland in The Finals three years in a row and produced the 2016 championship. LeBron had faith in Griffin’s judgment and to get the job done. With LeBron ready to become a free agent again in 2018 and another departure from Cleveland possible, the stakes are high once again. Letting Griffin go could nudge LeBron closer to the door.
Scott Howard-Cooper: It means the Cavaliers made a big mistake. Griffin wasn’t just winning as a GM because LeBron James decided it was time to come home. Griffin is good — smart, a strong personality in a situation that requires one, hard working. In fact, one rival exec once told me he is the smartest general manager in the league. If he’s out of work for long, it’s only because of timing, that jobs were filled before he and Dan Gilbert went through the divorce. I don’t know if this has a huge impact on James. Maybe it’s something to consider, but I can’t believe it would be a tipping point to whether he wants to stay or leave.
Shaun Powell: Wait … I thought LeBron ran the Cavs? Anyway … This means Chauncey Billups or whomever takes over better be ready to hit the ground running and make some big decisions about the immediate future of the club, given LeBron’s ability to leave next summer. And speaking of that … does LeBron really have the guts to leave Cleveland a second time? At least, if he does, all the anger will be directed toward Dan Gilbert, unlike the first time. That said … let’s give this time to work (or fail) first. The only time the sky fell when a GM left a team was in the case of Red Auerbach and Jerry West, and both teams recovered (and won championships).
John Schuhmann: Instability: Not good. An owner meddling in basketball decisions: Not good. As long as LeBron James is around, the Cavs are a title contender, but maybe the lack of stability and the unwillingness to reward the GM who helped put together a championship roster go on James’ “reasons to leave” list next summer.
Sekou Smith: When did David Griffin turn into Jerry West? I don’t remember anyone mentioning him among the league’s elite front office men before LeBron James decided it was time to come home from Miami. So let’s not go overboard with the doomsday scenarios now that he’s out in Cleveland. He did a fine job managing things the past three years. But make no mistake, the culture-setter in Cleveland still wears that No. 23 jersey. He is the one most responsible for all of the good that has gone on in Cleveland these past three years. Without him, none of it happens. Dan Gilbert knows that better than anyone and that’s why he’s moving on from Griffin. What Griffin’s exit means for the Cavaliers and LeBron is finding someone else with the ability to not mess up the best guarantee in sports right now, because whatever team LeBron plays on is basically a lock to at least make The Finals.
Ian Thomsen: The Cavaliers just made their lives more difficult. These GM jobs are hard enough for a rebuilding team, and they become exponentially more difficult as the team improves. Running the Cavs may have been the most demanding assignment in the NBA, based on the narrow opportunities to improve the team and the need to keep all of the egos — including owner Dan Gilbert and LeBron James — happy and focused. David Griffin was the perfect GM for that job, and now it appears they had no appreciation for all that he did for them. They’re about to find out.
No one should be predicting doomsday in Cleveland. The Cavs will still be trying to pull off a blockbuster trade for Paul George or Jimmy Butler that will enable them to compete with Golden State. But if the worst outcome occurs, and the speculation of James’s exit next summer comes true, then the departure of the GM will probably be viewed as a self-inflicted turning point.
Lang Whitaker: I’m not sure exactly what this means but it’s probably not good. To make a fundamental organizational change apparently without the involvement of your best player (LeBron James) doesn’t seem like most inclusive method. Under Griffin, the Cavs went all-in on building a roster that could compete right now, which led to an expensive, veteran-heavy roster that looked overmatched in The NBA Finals. Whoever replaces Griffin will have serious work ahead.