The season is over for the Cleveland Cavaliers; but after a season full of disappointment and falling short of expectations, the decisions are just beginning. The coming offseason promises to be one of intrigue and excitement as the team aims to not only take a step forward, but potentially reshape the entire identity of the team.
From the front office to the coaching staff to the players themselves, there is almost no certainly as to what the team will look like in the near future. Although teams don’t necessarily always follow this strategy, it makes the most logical sense to first decide upon who the decision maker will be before any decisions have to be made. For this reason, Dan Gilbert’s first offseason decision must be to figure out who his general manager will be.
When Chris Grant was wisely fired on Feb. 6, Gilbert promoted his then assistant GM, David Griffin, to interim GM. Although Griffin was viewed as a top assistant and as a likely NBA GM at some point, the move was still met with mixed emotions by many Cavaliers fans.
If Grant were fired in order to bring about change within the organization, then it was fair to ask how much change could take place if it was an internal hire such as this. Fans were begging Gilbert to pay whatever it took to bring in someone with name recognition…someone like Phil Jackson who would bring immediate clout to the organization (somewhat ironically, it is now rumored that Jackson, now as President of the New York Knicks, could hire David Griffin to be General Manager of the Knicks this summer).
Outside of a few 10-day contracts, and the strange signing of Scotty Hopson, the only move which Griffin can be judged on is the acquisition of Spencer Hawes. Has he done enough to prove his worth to the franchise and to be offered the full-time job? Or do the Cavaliers need to look for someone with more experience?
When looking at the statistics though, it is amazing the difference in the Cavaliers since David Griffin was hired. At that time, the Cavaliers were an atrocious 16-33 and only three teams in the entire league had a net rating worse then Cleveland’s -6.9. Those teams? The Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers, and Milwaukee Bucks…three of the worst teams in the entire league
But since Griffin was hired, the Cavaliers went on to a 17-16 record and had a positive net rating (1.7). Not only that, but they also added over three assists per game, scored five extra points per game (on fewer field goal attempts), and even averaged fewer fouls, to name only a few. Statistically speaking, the Cavaliers improved in almost every facet of the game. After a season full of only negative story lines, it was encouraging to see improvement of any kind.
Often, as fans, I believe we underestimate the mental side of the game, and a situation such as this can remind us that a simple change can have a huge impact on a team. Unfortunately for Griffin, these positive changes could just as easily be attributed to Grant being fired, as they can to him being promoted. It’s impossible to know for sure.
All things considered, I believe that Griffin has done enough to earn himself an opportunity in Cleveland. It remains to be seen whether Dan Gilbert agrees, but with preparations for the draft and free agency already beginning, for the betterment of the franchise Gilbert better make a quick decision.