David Griffin helped put a team around LeBron James that brought Cleveland its first title in 54 years. He pulled off the Kevin Love trade. He got J.R. Smith in town. He kept Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson with the Cavaliers. This year he pulled off moves to land Kyle Korver and Deron Williams to add depth. He’s done everything you could ask of a GM of a contender — he was the GM for three years, they went to three Finals, won a ring, and the team won 65 percent of its games.
Griffin was also underpaid by industry standards. He reportedly made less than $2 million a year, while GMs of other contenders make at least $4 million, usually more like $5 million. He was due a healthy raise.
Instead, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert decided to not pay that bill (and screw Griffin over in the process, we’ll get to that).
Griffin will be his own free agent July 1. Brian Windhorst of ESPN broke the news, Adrian Wojnarowski added details. Then Gilbert himself released a statement saying the two sides “mutually decided not to extend” his contract. Riiight.
Marc Stein of ESPN had another interesting note.
Gilbert is notoriously difficult to deal with, and around the league, people were always impressed with how Griffin dealt with him.
All this in front of a crucial off-season for the Cavaliers as they try to change their roster so they can compete with the Warriors, doing so without much in terms of cap space or tradeable assets (stuff spent already in the Cavs’ win-now mode). All with the threat of LeBron James leaving the team in 2018 looming over it.
Also, LeBron was not down with this move, reportedly. One would think if one wanted to keep LeBron with the franchise he would consult with his star on these kinds of major moves.
We’ll see what Gilbert pays the next GM, but was this really a move about a few million bucks he could cut to save (since the team tax bill will be brutal next year)?
Gilbert did screw over Griffin in this process: Orlando and Atlanta (plus Milwaukee, to a lesser degree) wanted to talk to Griffin about their GM openings. Gilbert would not give teams permission for those teams to contact Griffin about what are two of the better GM spots available. Eventually, those teams couldn’t wait and made their hires. Griffin was stuck. That after Griffin turned down higher-priced offers last summer — as did some of the rest of the front office staff — to be part of what the Cavaliers had.
It was within Gilbert’s rights, but if he knew he wasn’t going to pay the going rate, then be cool to your employees, not a…. jerk. We’ll go with jerk. But Gilbert is who he is.