In the reshuffling of the Hawks front office, moving Wes Wilcox somewhere else, the Hawks have identified Cavaliers GM David Griffin as a prime target. Skeptics have two questions: why would David Griffin leave a team with LeBron James on it? And what has David Griffin done to earn the opportunity to build a team since a great player fell into his lap and all he has had to do was fine tune?
A GM’s job is to keep an organization healthy by scouting young talent (for the future) while at the same time thinking about the right now and adding veteran players who can help. The GM also has to maintain financial flexibiliy to make free agent acquistions in the summer.
David Griffin did his learning by fire with the Phoenix Suns, an organization he was with 17 years. He was Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations from 2007-2010.
Suns Personnel Moves: Traded a 2008 1st round pick who turned out to be Serge Ibaka to the Seattle Supersonics for a second round pick who did nothing. Traded Shawn Marion for Shaquille O’Neal who gave them short term results. They signed Matt Barnes but so does everybody. Traded Shaq to the Cavs for Sasha Pavlovic and an old Ben Wallace and a draft pick who didn’t amount to anything. Signed Channing Frye as a free agent. Promoted Alvin Gentry after Mike D’Antoni fled for New York.
Suns Draft Picks (2007-10): Rudy Fernandez, Alando Tucker, D.J. Strawberry, Robin Lopez, Malik Hairston, Earl Clark, Taylor Griffin. None of whom did anything except Robin Lopez who stayed with the Suns four years, the longest of anyone in that group.
Suns Playoff Record (2008-10): 11-10. Lost in Western Conference Finals to Lakers in six games. Although Grant Hill paid dividends for them, he couldn’t guard a 32 year old Kobe Bryant.
Griffin joined the front office of the Cavs in 2010 and became the GM in 2014. Even as LeBron James came home and did all the heavy lifting to get Kevin Love out of Minnesota, Griffin still had a huge role to play as far as keeping Dan Gilbert out of his hair and in his billionaire lane.
As far as personnel, Griffin let the market set the price for free agents Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith. He didn’t panic when they were getting antsy, unsigned in the off-season. He stuck to his price for both, knowing they didn’t want to leave a team with LeBron James on it. Griffin waited them out and in the process gave them less money than what they wanted.
He fired David Blatt even though Blatt was having a good year and replaced him with neophyte Tyronn Lue whose claim to fame was guarding Allen Iverson in the 2001 NBA Finals.
Griffin’s greatest gift has been ignoring the LeBron James overreactions when he loses and is frustrated. He signed Deron Williams and Kyle Korver two huge needs for the Cavs. Griffin also changed the Cavs from a strong defensive team to a three point shooting offensive team so they could match up against the Warriors.
Cavs Personnel Moves (2014-17): Drafted and signed Andrew Wiggins. Traded Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love. Traded Dion Waiters. Traded Lou Amundson to the Knicks for Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith. Traded a 2016 1st round pick for Timofey Mozgov. Signed Kendrick Perkins. Signed Richard Jefferson. Traded Anderson Varajaao. Acquired Channing Frye. Signed Dahntay Jones. Signed Derrick Williams. Signed Deron Williams. Traded Mike Dunleavy, acquired Kyle Korver.
Cavs Draft Picks (2014-2106): Andrew Wiggins, Joe Harris, Tyus Jones, SirDominic Pointer. The only one still with the Cavs is no one. Andrew Wiggins was Rookie of the Year and is carving out a nice career elsewhere. Joe Harris is with the Nets and Tyus Jones is with the Wolves. Sir’Dominic is overseas. The Cavs philosophy is there is no future. After the LeBron James era is over, the Cavs are basically over, as a playoff team.
Cavs Playoff Record (2015-17): 38-11, NBA Title, NBA Runner up.
The Cavs are on pace for a repeat title and so it seems peculiar that Griffin would be interested in the Hawks job but, in an odd twist, a GM has less to do once he has done everything, created a champion. At that point it is maintenance. The building part of the job is over since no one wants to mess with perfection. The Cavs don’t have free agents who are their core and so what you see now is what you are going to see in the future.
What will the Hawks pitch?
They have 7 roster spots they have to fill, number one is Paul Millsap. What to pay him? Griffin has been expert at giving a free agent less than what he wants and they accept it for the good of the franchise. But that worked playing with LeBron James. Will that strategy work with MIllsap? That is the challenge of the Hawks GM job. Whoever the GM is, he is building something. He has a young point guard in Schroder. He has the continuous headache in Dwight Howard who still has a major role to play if he accepts it. And frankly, the new GM can hire a new coach if he thinks Coach Bud has lived his nine lives in Atlanta and it is time to move on.
You can make this team a contender, is what the Hawks will say to Griffin.
Will David Griffin bite? If the Cavs win the title, maybe yes. If they lose to the Warriors because they can’t beat the Warriors at their own game, the defeat may drive Griffin back to Cleveland and the Hawks will have to turn the page.
This much is clear. No one in the Griffin camp is saying no thank you. That means that Griffin is trying to use the Hawks as leverage to get more money from Gilbert. Or, Plan B. He wants a change.
Atlanta needs change. Badly.
photo via llananba