David Griffin, Wizardly Genius: 2016-17 Edition

David Griffin Cleveland Cavaliers
AP Photo

To the average sports fan, Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin is just another GM in the NBA. He hasn’t won a General Manager of the Year award. He’s the guy who does most of the work behind the scenes in hopes of making the wine and gold the best they can possibly be. Some may even believe LeBron James is the de facto general manager, head coach, star, and do-it-all guy for the Cavaliers. Although Griffin hasn’t been recognized by the league for the remarkable moves he has made to add to the Cavs since James announced that he was “Coming Home” prior to the 2015-16 season, the general manager has been the true wizard, magician, and just outright genius that has put Cleveland in a position to potentially win back-to-back titles come June.

Coming into the 2016-17 season, the Cavs had minimal assets to acquire much talent to the roster, if any at all. Outside of future picks, which were also a scarcity, the only players Griffin and company could even trade were Jordan McRae and Iman Shumpert, with the former being a player that many teams around the league were not interested in and the latter being a player that the Cavs would have a hard time trading away due to his shooting ability and defensive prowess. Many would even argue that the team’s top asset, outside of picks, is Cedi Osman, a player who has never stepped foot on an NBA court. But even with little to no assets whatsoever, Griffin was expected to improve the team, especially the second unit. James claimed the Cavs needed to make moves, which supposedly brought tension to the between he and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, while media members pointed out the inefficiencies in the 15-man roster. The Cavs were already over the salary cap, so, while Gilbert’s pockets were already very deep, Griffin was expected to improve the roster while spending as little money as possible.

When last Thursday’s trade deadline came and went without the team making a move, some were surprised, but why would one ever doubt Griffin? He knew what he was doing, and his plan will likely prove to be the smartest thing the Cavs could have done. While the team stood pat at the deadline, the Cavs were able to add forward Derrick Williams, point guard Deron Williams, and center Andrew Bogut to the roster while only having to waive Jordan McRae, which was officially announced on Wednesday afternoon. While Bogut has not been made official yet, reports say he will officially sign with the wine and gold by this weekend at the latest. Yes: Griffin added three rotation players to an already loaded roster while only having to give up the 14th- or 15th-best player on the roster. Crazy, right? Amazing what patience can do. It’s almost like Griffin knew what he was doing all along.

The Cavs were able to acquire three-point specialist Kyle Korver just after the new year. Rather than waiting until the deadline, they allowed the sharpshooter to get even more playing time and build chemistry with his new Cavaliers teammates before getting ready for the playoffs in April. To say that Korver has made the most of his opportunity would be an understatement.

While mainly being the team’s sixth man since joining the Cavs, Korver is averaging 11.6 points, three rebounds, and one assist in 25.9 minutes per game (22 games). What’s most impressive though is just how good of a shooter he is, especially from deep. The 35-year-old is shooting 52 percent from the field and 51 percent from long distance with the Cavs.

At the beginning of the season, the Cavs knew that their bench unit was getting to be average at best, but they had no idea that it would play as poorly as it did. Those struggles, along with Cleveland not having a legitimate backup point guard option, forced James to lead the second unit. Due to that, No. 23 has played 37.5 minute per game (54 games), which is the second-most, only behind Toronto’s Kyle Lowry (37.7). With the addition of Deron Williams, the ball-handling burden will be taken off of James and Kyrie Irving at times, while the veteran is able to lead the bench unit.

The Cavs’ bench unit has taken a complete 180 since the season began in late October. Griffin has replaced Mike Dunleavy, Chris “Birdman” Andersen, McRae, and Kay Felder — all of whom were experimented with to try and find the best second unit — with the two Williamses, Korver, and Bogut. After James made it known that the Cavs needed to replace Matthew Dellavedova and Timofey Mozgov, who both signed well-deserved paydays in the off-season, it took Griffin until after the trade deadline to answer James’ requests, but they have been answered, and then some. While saving Gilbert money by only having to pay the veteran’s minimum for both players, the wine and gold got two of the best players on the market at their respective positions.

Derrick Williams has already shown his athletic ability. The 6-foot-8 forward, who has suddenly found his shot since joining the Cavs, has proven that he can guard the opponent’s top player, whether it it a two-man, three-man, or four-man. He not only helps the Cavs – especially the second unit – on the defensive side of the ball, but he also has a new-found offensive game as well which is revitalized the team’s bench crew.

Irving has taken notice on the outstanding job that Griffin has done. While he realizes that having the best player in the world is a helpful recruiting tool, the point guard knows just how hard being a GM truly is and admitted that Griffin’s outstanding work continues to shoot confidence into the Cavs locker room.

Here’s his quote from’s Joe Vardon:

“I think you guys know, I’ve gone on record saying Griff has one of the hardest jobs, but he’s unbelievable at it, exudes a lot of confidence in not only the guys he brings in, but the guys that are here. For us, we trust in the front office and I think he does a great job. We have a great relationship, very open in terms of communication and I think he’s doing great.”

Even prior to the moves this season, Griffin has (somehow) made some remarkable moves since James returned to The Land in 2015. Whether it was acquiring All-Star Kevin Love; Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert, and throw-in J.R. Smith; or Channing Frye, the GM continues to impress Cleveland fans with just how much he has been able to improve the team without giving up much talent in return. If only he had a General Manager of the Year award to show for it.

This season, Griffin was able to add a former All-Star, NBA champion, and a key role player to the Cavs’ bench unit while not only saving Gilbert money, but also not giving up any of the team’s key assets that they have very few of. Earlier this season, the argument could be made that the wine and gold had one of the worst bench units in the game. Now, it can be argued that they have one of the best. While having the best player in the world definitely makes Griffin’s job easier while trying to add as much talent to the roster as possible, the work that the GM has done can’t go unnoticed. Yet again, he is the Cavs’ unsung hero this season and has setup his team to have a shot at winning back-to-back titles this summer.