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En route to a fourth consecutive appearance in the NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers were the most active team at the trade deadline last season.
On Feb. 8, the Cavaliers shipped out six players — Dwyane Wade, Isaiah Thomas, Iman Shumpert, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose and Channing Frye — and brought four players in. They were George Hill, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Rodney Hood.
While Cleveland won’t be extending its streak of reaching the Finals to five this season, possessing the NBA’s worst record at 9-39, the Cavaliers will once again be at the fore at this year’s trade deadline, according to David Griffin.
The former Cavaliers general manager told Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com he expects Cleveland to once again be in the spotlight at the deadline, set for Feb. 7.
Owner Dan Gilbert’s willingness to open his wallet and having some players on expiring contracts will expedite the team’s massive rebuild, Griffin said.
“The Cavs have expiring contracts (Hood and Alec Burks) to trade,” Griffin said. “Dan’s willingness to spend also will help them add assets.
“I think they will be in the epicenter as the trading deadline comes. It should be really interesting.”
As former GM Chris Grant and Griffin went about rebuilding the Cavaliers after LeBron James bolted for Miami via free agency after the 2010 season, Griffin sees Cleveland in a similar situation now, with James having defected for a second time, signing with the Los Angeles Lakers in July.
“Just like now, we had a huge advantage of an owner (Gilbert) willing to take on money to help add assets and draft picks,” Griffin said. “He’s doing it again.”
In 2010, Cleveland did not have a first-round pick in 2010. After taking over as GM after that season, Grant pulled off a deal with the Los Angeles Clippers that brought in Baron Davis and his $14 million contract, but much more importantly, an unprotected first-round draft pick.
The Cavaliers used that pick to select Kyrie Irving out of Duke.
Griffin sees Gilbert showing the same faith in current GM Koby Altman and his staff, which used Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick in the 2018 draft — acquired in the deal that sent the disgruntled Irving to Boston on Aug. 22, 2017 — to select point guard Collin Sexton out of Alabama with the eighth overall choice.
The Cavs also received center Ante Zizic in the Irving trade and added young pieces Clarkson and Nance in the deadline deals last season.
“We really didn’t have young players like that,” Griffin said. “The roster we inherited was old. A lot of guys didn’t want to be there. But that’s not the case for the Cavs right now.”
One player, in particular, Griffin has noticed is second-year man Cedi Osman. Griffin engineered the trade on draft day in 2015 for Osman, then playing in Turkey. The Cavaliers waited two years before bringing the forward in last season.
“He can initiate the offense like a point guard,” Griffin said of Osman. “He can defend small forwards and shooting guards. He’s athletic. He just needs to play.”
Despite residing in the NBA’s basement, Griffin, who helped oversee the team that lost 26 consecutive games in the 2011 season, does see some light at the end of the tunnel for the Cleveland.
“This team has some pretty good players,” he said. “They just have had a lot of bad luck with injuries and other things.”
Griffin, who put together the team led by James, Irving and Kevin Love that ended Cleveland’s 52-year drought by winning the 2016 NBA title, sees Gilbert in familiar territory.
“I believe Dan trusts Koby Altman in the same way he trusted Chris Grant,” he said. “He has belief in this front office.”