A change needed to be made. Dan Gilbert had to do something. I don’t believe he fired the right guy, and I think the 4 years and $20 million Gilbert guaranteed to Mike Brown played a role in whether or not he would decide to start writing him unreciprocated checks for the next few years after just over half a season of service.
In his press conference, Gilbert was asked repeatedly about his decision to fire Grant instead of Brown. The more he was asked variations on this question, the more insecure, vague, and contradictory he sounded. He supported the team Grant built, claiming the talent was there.
The only thing that made no sense, that every reporter at the conference was trying to wrap their heads around, was the inherent inconsistency of his support for the talent. If he supported the talent, he would not support Brown. There were many points where it seemed like he realized this, then fervently went on a tangential rant about how Brown was disappointed, or how firing Grant would change team culture (which was the culprit?).
Gilbert fired the wrong guy.
The Cavs recorded 31.8%, and 29.3% winning percentages over the last two seasons, respectively; before Grant’s firing, they were at 32.6% this season. This becomes more disappointing when you see they have played the weakest schedule of any team in the league so far. While this is in large part the root of their easy schedule, I feel obliged to emphasize how terrible they are despite playing more than half their games against the injury-ridden, devasted, tanktastic Eastern Conference.
Unlike the Knicks or Nets– two huge disappointments, the Cavaliers don’t even have the injury scapegoat; there have been a few minor injuries to key players, and that’s it. The Cavs, by virtue of having talent and not trying to win, should be mediocre record-wise.
Brown has been terrible managing rotations (he’s been great recently, rolling with very productive lineups and playing Jarrett Jack off the ball, and less); his offense would be league-worst without the supreme innovative playmaking from Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters, and Kyrie Irving, because there seems to be one action being performed at a time; and he consistently gets out-coached (like when he continued to hard-hedge Isaiah Thomas in a 44-point blowout loss, or not adjusting to small-ball lineups).
He didn’t figure out Earl Clark was a power forward for a month, then when he was doing well there, moved him back to small forward.
Brown is not the person who deserves all the blame for this team being bad. Even if they were coached adequately, they would probably be hovering near the .500 mark. This really isn’t the most talented team.
Outside of Kyrie, Waiters, Varejao, and Miles (who plays less than 20 minutes per game…!!!), there really hasn’t been that much talent. Deng hasn’t even been himself on this team– struggling to execute its demanding defense, and find his niche in an offense that’s pure dreck.
Tristan Thompson records a PER of 14.42– below average. Since Thompson isn’t much of a tough or cerebral guy on either end, this rating is pretty accurate. Factoring in how Thompson plays heavy starters minutes, and the flops of Andrew Bynum and Jack, this team had a lot of surface talent– respected names– but very little talent that helps.
You can blame Grant for that. Maybe “blame” is the wrong word. He was handed a devastated squad, picked through bad drafts, sifted through trash, crawled through 500 yards of shit smelling foulness I can’t even imagine, or maybe I just don’t want to, and came out it with building blocks.
Goodbye Chris Grant
Here is a brief on his highlights during his tenure:
- July 26, 2010: Traded Delonte West and Sebastian Telfair for Ramon Sessions, Ryan Hollins, and a 2013 second-round pick. West was either going to be cut or traded, and Grant got assets in return.
- December 28, 2010: Signed Alonzo Gee. As much as I hate on him, he has been effective during his time with the Cavs, especially for a guy coming from the D.
- February 24, 2011: Traded second-round pick acquired from Minnesota for LUKE HARANGODY and Semih Erden. Basically, he traded a future second-round pick for some of the greatest basketball memories of my life. Gody is the face of the Chris Grant era, without a question.
- The other meaningless trade that happened the same day as “The ‘Gody”: Mo Williams and Jamario Moon to the Clippers for Baron Davis and their 2011 unprotected first-round pick. Since Davis was amnestied ten months later, Grant essentially paid $11M for the first pick in the draft– depending on how you feel about Williams’ skill-level/value in 2011. (He wasn’t rejuvenated 2012 Clippers version of himself; he was actually playing 20 pounds overweight, and contemplating retirement.)
- June 23, 2011: With the first-round pick acquired from the Clippers, the Cavs drafted Kyrie first overall; with the fourth pick, they selected Thompson.
- June 30, 2011: Traded J.J. Hickson to the Sacramento Kings for Omri Casspi and a future first-round draft pick. Hickson was looking for an extension, and there were rumors he was even talking max-money, so he was dealt for a player Byron Scott had no idea how to use and a first-round pick. I doubt you could get a first-round pick for Hickson now, so getting one when he was worse is a huge win.
- March 15, 2012: Traded Christian Eyenga and Sessions to the Lakers for Jason Kapono, Luke Walton, a 2012 first-round draft pick and the option to swap picks in 2013. Taking on Walton’s contract for a year-and-a-half (he was actually pretty good for the Cavs) netted them a first-rounder in 2012, and an 11-spot jump in the first-round in 2013. This is all a product of trading West for a good player in a bad system.
- June 28, 2012: Selected Waiters (1st round, 4th pick), Jared Cunningham (1st round, 24th pick), Bernard James (2nd round, 33rd pick) and Jae Crowder (2nd round, 34th pick) in the 2012 NBA Draft.
- June 29, 2012: Traded Crowder, Cunningham and James to the Dallas Mavericks for Kelenna Azubuike and Tyler Zeller. Zeller is coming along, needs to build strength, but definitely seems to have upside as a long-term rotation cog at the very least. This trade was a product of asset collection by Grant.
- August 8, 2012: Signed Miles as a free agent. This is the best, and most under appreciated signing Grant has ever made. Miles has been the most consistent two-way player this season, he’s completely remodeled his game, and he’s severely underused and underpaid.
- January 22, 2013: Traded Jon Leuer to the Memphis Grizzlies for Wayne Ellington, Josh Selby, Marreese Speights, and a future first-round draft pick (protected Nos. 1-5 and Nos. 15-30 in 2015 and 2016. The pick is top-5 protected in 2017 and 2018. If the pick has not been conveyed by 2018, it becomes unprotected in 2019). By not splurging, and using the money owed to Davis strategically (when you amnesty a player, the money paid to that player counts towards the minimum salary, but not towards the salary cap), Grant netted a lottery pick just by taking on low-salary players.
- June 27, 2013: Selected Anthony Bennett (1st round, 1st pick), Sergey Karasev (1st round, 19th pick.
- July 12, 2013: Signed Jack as a free agent.
- July 12, 2013: Signed Clark as a free agent.
- July 19, 2013: Signed Andrew Bynum as a free agent.
- January 7, 2014: Traded Bynum, the Kings’ protected first-round pick via Hickson trade, the rights to swap picks in 2015 (lottery-protected), and the Portland Trail Blazers’ 2015 & ’16 second-round picks to the Chicago Bulls for Luol Deng.
Transactions courtesy of Basketballreference.com and espn.com
Grant won all of his trades, at least as it pertains to the Cavs’ aspirations in each deal. He fleeced people. He may have had the steal of the decade when he dealt Williams for Kyrie.
The only trade some people feel he lost was the Deng trade. People cite the amount of picks he forfeited. Descending in value, the picks’ value go as follows:
1. The Kings pick: protected 1-12 in 2014, 1-10 in 2015, 1-10 in 2016 or 1-10 in 2017; if Sacramento has not conveyed a 1st round pick to Chicago by 2017, then Sacramento will instead convey its 2017 second-round pick. Sacramento would select 4th if the draft were held today. They have no financial flexibility, and Isaiah Thomas is due for an extension. They are likely staying in the bottom-10 for this season and next, if not longer.
2. The right to swap 2015 first-rounders: This is lottery-protected. I would say the Bulls could be anywhere from 17th-27th in the draft next season. So, in the very worst scenario, the Cavs move back 12 spots in the draft.
3. Portland’s two second-round picks: You tell me if two Milan Macvan’s are going to fill anyone with regret.
This could easily turn into three future second-round picks, and moving back 5 spots in the draft.
This isn’t even a deal we can fully assess yet. Cleveland very well might flip Deng at the trade deadline for a pick(s). Deng’s also a good, legitimate, small forward. Emphasis on good. When people hear of these trades, they seem to obsess over draft positions and forget that 2x all-stars are the types of players you seek in the first round.
The Deng trade didn’t get Grant fired, though.
The first “mistake” he made was drafting Thompson. But taking a glance at it, it really wasn’t a bad pick. Of players who were considered in the top-5, he’s had arguably the third or fourth best career (behind Kyrie, Kemba Walker, and Kawhi Leonard– really not considered in the top-5). Jonas Valanciunas has more potential, but would the Cavs be any closer to the playoffs with him instead of Thompson right now? Would Leonard look this good if he were selected by the Cavs instead of the Greg Popavich Spurs?
I recently wrote a lot about the Waiters “mistake.” I’ll say this: There is no NBA person who will tell you Waiters, in retrospect, should have gone lower than 5th overall of anyone considered in the lottery. When you factor in one of those players being a point guard, and the big, fabricated gap between Waiters and Bradley Beal, the argument can be made he was the 3rd best player for the Cavs behind Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond.
There have been a lot of flops out of those two drafts, and the Cavs selected four legitimate players with upside. Grant dodged bullets by not selecting some of these guys people would have been more comfortable with. Harrison Barnes has no discernible skills; Thomas Robinson is struggling, to say the least; Jan Vesely is bad; Brandon Knight is not better than Thompson; Bismack Biyombo is looking very bustish; Derrick Williams is a bust, especially for a player who was supposed to be a safer pick than Kyrie. The uproar after these surprise picks still muddy’s the perception on each of these players and Grant.
There is the criticism Grant got for those surprise picks… then there is the criticism Grant got for the Bennett pick. Criticism for this pick is deserved, but the fervent bashing of it is not.
Bennett has been egregious. Outside of Victor Oladipo, who is not better than Waiters or Miles, who in the top-10 would have conceivably significantly impacted the Cavs this season? Alex Len? Ben McLemore? Otto Porter Jr.? Bennett’s starting to put it together. Maybe a guy with great tools might not be a complete bust after half a season. He, like the Cavs, needs time.
This is a microcosm of what happened to Grant during his entire tenure. He has been forced to make lemons into lemonade. He has selected in three really bad drafts, and didn’t have the luxury of trading a star player for assets. Yet, he has a star, three quality young players with upside, Deng, Varejao, a potential extra pick in the lottery next season.
Unless Grant chose Drummond and Klay Thompson (both were not in the discussion for top-5, and actually, they are both overrated right now)– striking gold– over Waiters and Tristan Thompson, the Cavs would not be much better in the thousands of other conceivable scenarios. It is unreasonable to expect a year-3 jump like the Thunder because there were no James Harden’s, Russell Westbrook’s, Kevin Durant’s, or Ray Allen’s (for trade purposes) on this team!
Rebuilding isn’t all about draft position and the amount of years spent rebuilding, which is what we, the fans, seem to collectively believe. You need context. This is a beautiful age where we have an unprecedented amount of context, and because of that, we shouldn’t act like getting the 2013 first overall pick is in any way, shape, or form similar to getting the first pick in 2003.
Sadly, Dan Gilbert and NBA fans are slaves to the arbitrarily set amount of time it takes for a team makes a leap, rather than expecting a leap when the team is talented enough to make it.
This fixation on breaking from the team’s natural course, and winning immediately is what ultimately got Grant fired.
Gilbert’s playoff demand was as much the reason for the Jack, Clark, and Bynum signings as Grant. Grant actually handled the bad Bynum falling-out very well by turning him into Deng, and the Clark signing by not guaranteeing his contract past this season. I still have no defense for Jack. His contract is dreadful, and that’s easily the biggest mistake Grant has made as general manager. At the time it looked like a decent move, though; Kyrie played really well next to Sessions (+5.8 in 227 minutes), and Jack is an experienced guard who just came off an impressive playoff run playing next to Stephen Curry.
I am going to miss Grant, and I think he caught way too much flak, given the enfeebled position he was operating from.
But hey, he’s gone, he was underrated, and at least David Griffin is kinda cool.
Griffin, Interim GM
Brian Windhorst said Griffin reminds him of Louis C.K. I totally agree. He’s not like him doing stand-up, though; he’s like C.K. in Louie. He seems like an awkward guy in his early-40s who just found himself in a mundane, yet ridiculous scenario with strange characters.
He knows he’s in a bad situation, and he knows he doesn’t have all the answers, but he’s taking his years of experience, positive outlook, and hoping things fall into place. He just wants to see people smile. Whatever desperate, awkward energy he is giving off is totally working because the team is smiling, and winning!
They are 4-0 since he took over! These guys definitely feel bad about Grant’s firing, and they also see Griffin as a guy who isn’t asking for wins– just smiles– and they feel they owe it to this front office that gambled on them. Kyrie called Waiters his good friend; the Cavs won 4 in a row for the first time since LeBron; there is even an “us versus the world” attitude that’s starting to develop after becoming the laughing stock of the league.
More importantly, the last four games featured Brown playing more productive lineups. They have also played sub-par teams. These were all games they should have won, and they finally won them! It’s a step. Nothing to go crazy over, but it means a lot for this team’s chemistry.
Griffin has been working in the league for 17 years (?). This promotion has been a long time coming. I am happy for him, and hope he succeeds but…
Who is the Long-term GM?
The Cavs should wait until after the trade deadline, and ultimately this season, to really decide to demote Griffin again. It’s his job to lose. Right now, with a 1.000 winning percentage, he is on pace to keep his job.
If they choose to shake up the front office after the season, here are some guys who they should consider:
- George Karl
- Stan Van Gundy
- Phil Jackson
Jalen Rose likes to talk about “marionettes.” Guys who know how to get stuff done. Guys who players flock to.
Pat Riley, Mitch Kupchak, and Popovich are examples. These are guys who would oversee every level– from dealing first-hand with personnel on a day-to-day basis, to owner’s right-hand man. They are the guys who pull the strings and call the shots in this organization.
Jackson is the only one of these guys who is an established “marionette” type; Karl has never won a championship, but he’s held in high regard; Van Gundy has that potential, judging by his time in Orlando, has that potential.
They all garner tons of respect from people around the league, get the best out of their team, and are interesting, intelligent basketball minds.
It’s obvious Gilbert doesn’t trust guys like Grant, Griffin, or Danny Ferry. Because of that, he tends to take matters into his own hands. That’s never good.
Gilbert needs a guy like Karl or Jackson, who he would be willing to trust with every level of the organization. Jackson has been rumored to have interest in joining a franchise only if he gets a position like Pat Riley’s. This organization needs a strong voice, an alluring figure head, and most of all, stability.
The next week will ultimately determine Griffin’s future in the front office. Brown’s future will likely be decided by how this season ends. It’s an interesting position the Cavs find themselves in, and the decision to fire a GM mid-season is very atypical.
Whether Grant deserved to be fired or not, he’s gone.
Hopefully Griffin, Brown, and Gilbert usher in the new era of Cavaliers basketball. Hopefully Gilbert becomes less delusional. The future is uncertain, and all we can really do with such an arbitrary, random, mercurial owner, is hope for the best and enjoy the first 4-game winning streak in four years.