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For as much as people outside the Cleveland area (and some inside) love to joke about LeBron James being the “General Manager” of the Cavaliers, anyone who’s followed the NBA for the last three years can point out how impressive David Griffin’s tenure has been.
The actual general manager of the Cavaliers has made deal after deal and in some cases, steal after steal since the start of the 2014-15 season.
Cleveland began the summer of 2014 with a roster of veterans, mostly past their primes, and a core of James, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Andrew Wiggins.
The decision to trade Wiggins for Kevin Love wasn’t exactly rocket science, but to think of what the Cavs really gave up in that trade, it was basically a one-for-one swap.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are happy with Wiggins, but the player that came along with him in that trade is nowhere to be found on an NBA court three years later.
The fact that the Cavs actually got someone to take Anthony Bennett off of their hands looks even better in hindsight.
Minnesota hoped a change of scenery would help get the best out of Bennett, but it didn’t come to fruition.
Wiggins is a great player, but it didn’t take a genius at the helm to make that move, which was the first of many to come.
Two of the most memorable trades in Cavaliers history took place between Jan. 5 and Jan. 7, 2015.
Griffin turned Dion Waiters, Alex Kirk, Lou Amundson and three late draft picks into J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Timofey Mozgov and a first-round pick plus a second-rounder.
We all know what happened after that.
Smith and Shumpert are still here, looking for a second championship.
Mozgov got a ring and a $64 Mil. contract out of his experience with the Cavs, and played a big role in the 2014-15 run to the Finals.
Griffin struck gold on that deal, essentially sparking the turnaround for Smith’s career and putting Shumpert in a position where he isn’t asked to do too much out of his comfort zone, but is a valuable piece to the championship puzzle.
Fast forward to the summer of 2015. The Cavs, disappointed by coming up short in the NBA Finals, reloaded as soon as the offseason officially began.
Dan Gilbert opened the checkbook and Griffin got to work, extending Love and Shumpert’s contracts.
There was little drama or mystery and for everyone who wanted to drum up rumors of Love going to Los Angeles, Griffin got the job done quickly.
One day after Love and Shumpert signed extensions, the Cavs signed Mo Williams, who proved to be a valuable contributor early in the 2015-16 season, playing meaningful minutes while Irving was injured.
Later in the summer, the Cavs went on to sign Richard Jefferson.
To think Jefferson would be starting in the NBA Finals 10 months later and now he’s a Cleveland legend for the rest of his life.
One of the tougher negotiations the Cavs have gone through involved the process of re-signing Thompson.
At the time, 5 yr/$82 Mil. seemed like an extraordinary price for a guy with his skillset, but Griffin and the Cavs had the foresight to see the way the salary cap was headed.
Mozgov got $16 Mil. per year the next season and the Cavs have Thompson at a more than reasonable salary now.
Some front office groups may have let a player like Thompson go in that scenario, but if the Cavs did that, who knows if the banner would be hanging in the rafters today?
As 2015 turned into 2016, the Cavs were off to a great start (30-11), but ended up making some major changes.
Whether LeBron influenced the decision to fire David Blatt or not, Griffin’s job may have been on the line if that choice blew up in his face.
It’s not normal protocol to fire a head coach while enjoying the best record in the conference and many criticized the move at the time.
Safe to say that risk turned out well and Tyronn Lue is beloved by Cleveland.
Firing a head coach wasn’t enough for Griffin, as his next move sent a fan favorite out of town to acquire a player named Channing Frye, who had not been making much of an impact in the league for the last three seasons.
At his best, Frye was a game-changing stretch forward who could light it up from the perimeter.
But the Cavs didn’t acquire him at his peak and Anderson Varejao was “the Wild Thing.”
Much like just about every other move Griffin made up to that point, it paid off dividends beyond expectations.
Frye made key contributions throughout the second half of the 2015-16 season, erupted at times in the playoffs, and was a key component to Cleveland’s championship run.
In his first full season in Cleveland, he’s fitting in even better now.
Let’s also not forget, the quiet acquisition of Dahntay Jones ended up making a difference in the Finals.
The summer of 2016 presented tough choices for Griffin and Gilbert.
Whenever teams win championships, there’s usually a hangover in one way or another.
Those hangovers often are a result of losing valuable players due to salary cap restrictions.
That’s what happened with Matthew Dellavedova and Mozgov.
But does anyone believe losing Delly and Mozgov will be major reasons to blame if the Cavs don’t repeat as champions?
The most important offseason move Griffin made in 2016 was re-signing Smith.
The regular season injury was a big blow, but if he returns for the playoff run, continues to be a dangerous threat on offense, and plays the tough defense the Cavs have grown accustomed to from his first two seasons in Cleveland, that extension will be worth every penny.
The 2016-17 season has seen its share of bumps in the road, as injuries have hampered the Cavs, yet the team owns a three-game advantage for first place in the East.
When the Cavs acquired Kyle Korver, there was a general sense of “David Griffin did it again?”
The Cavs gave up a first-round pick, Mike Dunleavy (who had been unproductive all season), the contract of Williams (who’s essentially retired from basketball) and money created from the Varejao trade to get one of the top five three-point shooters in NBA history.
That in itself would have been a good haul for Griffin to upgrade a championship roster, but that wasn’t the last move of this 2016-17 season.
Fresh off the scrap heap, Derrick Williams has fit in nicely with the Cavs and is well on his way to earning a contract that keeps him in Cleveland for the playoffs, if not longer.
At the trade deadline, writers and fans speculated on what the Cavs would do.
Should they trade Shumpert? Would they be open to considering a trade for Love?
Griffin went about his business while the rest of the league scrambled to catch up to the Cavs and Warriors.
Now, it appears Andrew Bogut and Deron Williams will fall into Cleveland’s lap, while the Cavs give up virtually nothing.
Cleveland Indians fans tend to use the phrase “Trust in Tito.”
When it comes to the Cavs, if there’s a decision to be made, I’m going with Griff.