After losing 4-1 to the Golden State Warriors in the 2017 NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers and then General Manager David Griffin had a serious task ahead of them to retool the team to keep up with the Warriors in the arms race between both teams. As of June 19, there were serious talks that the team had interest from the Indiana Pacers for their star forward Paul George or the Chicago Bulls for their star player, Jimmy Butler. The entire internet was buzzing with speculation of how Griffin and the Cavaliers, a team strapped for cash after bloating itself with the massive contracts of Iman Shumpert, Tristan Thompson, and JR Smith, would be able to pull off a move all while trying to keep the core of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love intact. This writer included:
But, as the sun started to set in Northeast Ohio something totally unexpected happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers faithful as owner Dan Gilbert and David Griffin mutually decided to part ways, leaving the team in a full-on crisis mode. According to ESPN's Dave McMenamin the reason the departure was due to the fact that Gilbert and Griffin clashed over the identity of the franchise; with Griffin's idea no longer being the "proper fit" for the team. On the one-year anniversary of the Cavaliers winning their first NBA title and ending the once legendary Cleveland Sports Curse, the team was without the man who was the architect of that championship winning team. Right now the team is still trying to negotiate trades with Assitant GM Koby Altman and Gilbert running the show.
As of June 20, Gilbert plans to speak to former NBA star guard Chauncey Billups on filling the now vacant President of Basketball Operations position and former Milwaukee Bucks snub Justin Zanik is a looking to work under Billups as general manager for the Cavaliers. Billups and Zanik both may clash with Gilbert, an owner who has never extended a general manager in 12 and a half years, as Gilbert will more than likely tighten the leash on them, a common trend with each new Cavaliers GM. Trade negotiations may prove to be difficult for the team this offseason, as well as Gilbert, looks to hand over the reigns to an inexperienced Chauncey Billups while Griffin was highly respected throughout the league.
With such an unexpected turn of events for the 2016 NBA Champions, it leaves the team at a serious crossroads. The team was looking to retool on the fly and Butler and George were ideal players to add to the Cavaliers' roster. With either of them on the team, if Cleveland were to meet the Golden State Warriors a fourth consecutive time, they could deploy George or Butler on Durant and allow LeBron to play the role of free safety on defense, much like they did when the Warriors had Harrison Barnes on the floor. According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, while on ESPN's Mike & Mike, Griffin at the time had a trade agreement with the Phoenix Suns to send Kevin Love to Phoenix for the #4 in the 2017 NBA Draft which would then be packaged to secure either Butler or George.
Besides this upcoming season all eyes are also on what will happen next summer if Cleveland fails to win another NBA title as superstar Lebron James is a free agent and according to The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor, James may be heading to the West Coast to team up with his friends in Los Angeles. With Griffin no longer a part of the team, this may expedite the process for James as he has been vocal on numerous occasions of his support for the former GM:
With James gone, the Cavaliers would either have to settle for being a mediocre Eastern Conference team that could at best make it past the first round of the playoffs or try and blow up the franchise entirely and hope to gain some draft stock after trading almost all of it away to build the present team. While Griffin did place some protections on future picks the Cavaliers traded away, the team's cupboard is pretty bare in terms of future assets.
The Cleveland Cavaliers had arguably one of the best general managers in the NBA in David Griffin. With Griffin gone the team might become a sinking ship in the next few seasons unless they are able to still obtain another piece to help win another championship. At this time trade talks are still ongoing and being run by assistant general manager Koby Altman and Dan Gilbert. Whoever the new general manager will be, whether it's a tandem of Billups and Zanik or not, will more than likely have less power under Gilbert and have difficulty with established front offices due to inexperience. Superstar LeBron James is not happy about the move either, and this could impact his decision to remain with the team after next season as well. There is never a dull moment in Northeast Ohio with the Cavaliers and hopefully, the ship is righted soon and the team continues to make the right moves to return as NBA Champions.