According to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, the Cleveland Cavaliers have fired general manager Chris Grant. Grant was bought into the Cavaliers organization in 2011, and during his time, the Cavaliers have a record of 61-136. The Cavaliers will elevate assistant general manager David Griffin to an interim GM role. The Cavaliers currently sit 12th in the Eastern Conference with a 16-33 record and a point differential of -6.3.
This move seemed inevitable as Cleveland slowly fell further out of playoff contention after the Luol Deng trade. What ultimately did Chris Grant in is the drafting. As Sam Vecenie detailed in his breakdown of Chris Grant’s tenure, the Cavaliers had success making trades, but the drafting left much to be desired. The selection of Kyrie Irving first overall in 2011 was great, but Tristan Thompson, while good, hasn’t lived up to the billing of the fourth overall pick, Dion Waiters is a decent player, but he and Irving don’t seem like a good fit together on the court, and just months into his career, Anthony Bennett has played like one of the worst players in the league, if not THE worst player in the league. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert stated at the 2013 NBA draft lottery that “This is the last time you’ll see us here.” Unfortunately, the Cavaliers are currently slated to appear at the 2014 NBA draft lottery, and that has a ton to do with Chris Grant’s in-season firing.
Pile an even worse free agent resume onto Grant’s poor drafting, and you can understand the firing. The Cavaliers went all in this offseason with Jarrett Jack (four years, 25.2 million), Earl Clark (two years, 8.5 million), Andrew Bynum (two years, 24 million), and the coaching hire of Mike Brown (five years, 25 million). None of these guys have offered Cleveland anything positive of note, and in Bynum’s case, is already removed from the roster. Even the arrival of Luol Deng in a trade couldn’t help stabilize the roster, and more importantly, couldn’t stabilize Mike Brown’s defense. (A defense that currently ranks 21st in terms of efficiency, per NBA.com.) It also doesn’t help that Irving and Brown seems to be at odds, and that the roster has yet to believe in Brown’s system 50 games into the season.
Time to pack it up and look at next season? The Cavaliers are a sunk cost at the moment. There’s no reason to believe that they’re going to make the playoffs, even while being 5.5 games back. The team has no positives at the moment, and it doesn’t seem like they enjoy Mike Brown as their coach. Along with their 21st ranked defense, the Cavaliers outdo that with a 24th ranked offense. Not good when you’re a slow and plodding offense (18th in the league in pace, per NBA.com’s Media Stats), and yet expected when Kyrie Irving is your only good offensive player. The Luol Deng trade, the one that was supposed to stabilize the roster, has been a failure, and other than C.J. Miles, the Cavaliers have faltered offensively. Other than Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao (at times), the Cavaliers have been a train-wreck defensively. Both Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving struggle to stay in front of their man defensively, resulting in Thompson, Vareajo, and other Cavalier big men to defend the rim, and those results have been less than kind. As of last week, the Cavaliers allow opponents to shoot 62.4% within 5 feet and 42% from 5-9 feet, ranking 28th in both areas, per NBA.com’s stats page.
That being said, the Cavaliers still have hope. All things considered, the Cavs should have a spot in the lottery this offseason, and the draft slightly leans in their favor. With Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers can look towards other positions to upgrade in the draft. Unless they get really lucky, they’ll be in position for someone like Indiana’s Noah Vonleh, Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein, or Kentucky’s James Young; all three who can contribute to this team right away. Unlike other teams near the bottom of the league, the Cavaliers still have a nice collection of draft picks, highlighted by three first-round picks in the 2015 draft- One from Memphis, and the other from Miami. Having three picks in next year’s draft allows Cleveland to possess some flexibility, whether they use the picks to acquire young, affordable talent, make a move for another Deng-esque talent, or even enticing a team to take Jarrett Jack’s contract off their hands if need be.
As for the current roster, the Cavaliers aren’t too bad. Shamsports.com has the Cavaliers at $50 million dollars on the books next season, but if they decide to waive Earl Clark and Alonzo Gee without penalty, the Cavaliers will have about $41.5 million tied into 11 players for next season. This, however, is without Luol Deng and C.J. Miles, two of the team’s best players right now, on the books. While Miles should be able to be brought back for a cheap rate, Deng is a former All-Star, and could command more than $10-12 million next season, which could put Cleveland in the bind of “small market hell”, with extension periods for Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson looming.
The Cavaliers still have multiple moves to make between now and next season, but one of them will include letting go Mike Brown as the head coach. Signing a five-year, 25 million dollar deal this past offseason, Brown has been a disaster in his second stint in Cleveland, failing to entice Kyrie Irving into buying into his system, failing to “change the culture”, and most importantly, failing to take Cleveland from the bottom of the league to the playoffs. And it seems as if this current six-game losing streak is the endpoint. The Cavaliers won’t fire him midseason like they did with Grant, but an offseason change seems imminent. The bigger question is what direction Cleveland goes. The recent trend in the league is picking “out-of-the-box” hires like Jeff Hornacek of Phoenix, Steve Clifford of Charlotte, and Mike Budenholzer of Atlanta; assistant coaches with different looks than the previous installment of NBA coaches. Basically, coaches who understand the value of three-ball, perimeter defense, and passing from all areas of the court. One may argue that Cleveland doesn’t have that talent, but under Brown’s tutelage and offensive system, would we even know?
It’s been four seasons since LeBron James left for Cleveland, and since then, the Cavaliers have the worst record in basketball. They had the right draft picks, the cap space to use, and went through multiple coaches to get to this point. Now, all of the blame falls on Chris Grant, and he’s gone. Whoever runs the Cavaliers next has a tough job ahead of them, but with a young talent in Kyrie Irving to build around, and draft picks to reshape the roster, making the playoffs isn’t an impossible feat moving forward.