One thing about firing somebody – it draws attention. Until the next big story breaks, every website concerned with the NBA has an eye on the Cavs to analyze what the firing of Chris Grant means and what the actual state of the franchise is. Personally, I was surprised. Owner Dan Gilbert obviously felt like he needed to do something, particularly after the piece in The Plain Dealer last week accusing him of lack of leadership, and firing Mike Brown a second time would be violating the fool-me-once axiom, so there was no way to do that and not look like an idiot. So Grant goes.
The timing does bother me, being this close to the trade deadline. The Cavs desperately need to turn their ill-fitting assets into pieces that can be part of the core. That probably means trading Dion Waiters for someone that blends with Kyrie Irving; deciding whether they have a chance of keeping Luol Deng and, if not, getting something for him; and moving Jarrett Jack for the best package they can get. It might also mean testing the market for Anderson Varejao. It now looks unlikely that the Cavs will be contenders while Andy is still in his prime; if the opportunity arises to get a young stud for him, the Cavs would have to consider it.
While David Griffin has been closely involved in player evaluations and has a strong reputation throughout the NBA, it is difficult to imagine him hitting the ground fast enough to make any significant moves with the trade deadline less than two weeks away. Most people in new jobs take that long to figure out what’s in all the filing cabinets in their new office. Obviously Gilbert no longer trusted Grant to make those moves; if that was the case, he was right to fire him. But this may end up as a missed opportunity for the Cavs. On the other hand, Griffin knows that he is merely the interim GM. It seems logical (not sure why I keep thinking that word applies to the Cavs) to assume that Gilbert will make a decision on a permanent GM before the draft in June, especially if the Cavs, as it now appears, end up with a top-5 pick. This trade deadline is the only opportunity Griffin will have to make an impression; he wouldn’t be doing himself any favors by sitting on his hands.
The opportunities to transform this roster into something are right there in front of him. The Cavs still have a boatload of draft picks. Since it is unlikely that the Cavs would want to add another half dozen young players over the next two years, some of those picks should be used to upgrade the roster right now. Varejao, Deng and, to a lesser extent, Jack and Earl Clark, are all the type of player that contenders just fall all over themselves to pick up at the deadline. Most of the trade rumors involving Waiters indicate that other teams would be willing to give up something of value to get him. A savvy GM can just let everyone know that he’s waiting for the best offer and just sit back and let the calls come in. If he doesn’t get the kind of offer that moves the needle on the direction of the franchise (especially with Varejao, who is too valuable to end up as just a salary dump), then just spend the rest of the season trying to make everything fit and try again this summer.
If by the start of next season the Cavs can find a way to add a big and a shooter, and either keep Deng or replace him with someone of similar ability, they are still looking at an extremely bright future. If they are aggressive and smart at the deadline and at the draft, they can add multiple pieces to their current core and be back on track to contend.