After losing in five games to the Warriors in the NBA Finals last week, the Cavaliers have been aggressive in working on upgrading their roster. Over the weekend, there were reports that they had discussions with the Pacers about a Paul George trade, which were followed by reports on Monday that they were working on a potential three-team trade to acquire Jimmy Butler from the Bulls.
Leading those trade talks was Cavs general manager David Griffin, who has built a Finals roster around LeBron James for the past three years. But with Griffin's current contract set to expire at the end of the month, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert released a statement on Monday evening announcing that the two sides would be parting ways.
Days before the draft, and less than two weeks before free agency season opens, the Cavs now need to find a new GM. Here are three revelations from the stunning turn of events.
1. Dan Gilbert has never given much credit to his front office
How's this for a crazy fact? Via ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Dave McMenamin, in Gilbert's 12-plus years as owner of the Cavs, he has never agreed to a contract extension with any of his general managers. Griffin made key trades to acquire Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, Timofey Mozgov and Kyle Korver, who all made contributions to Cleveland's three consecutive Finals appearances -- and, of course, a championship in 2016.
Griffin also made the call to fire David Blatt and promote Tyronn Lue as head coach during the 2016 season, even as the Cavs were leading the East. Griffin released a statement late Monday evening, saying that he and Gilbert could not agree on a fit going forward. If you want to read between the lines based on Gilbert's history, he simply did not value Griffin enough to retain him.
To create this type of front office uncertainty by letting a GM go just days before the draft seems like the last thing the Cavaliers need headed into the offseason. But this is Gilbert's team, and he asserted that power on Monday. Also, Gilbert is not a master of timing:
Today was the 1-year anniversary of the Cavs winning the 1st championship in franchise history and the day David Griffin walked out the door- Dave McMenamin (@mcten) June 20, 2017
2. Step right up, Chauncey Billups
Billups, the former NBA Finals MVP who has been a television analyst the past three seasons and has no front office experience, is reportedly Gilbert's favorite (and only) candidate at the moment to be the team's top executive. The expectation is that Billups will hire an experienced GM to handle day-to-day duties.
But how will the vision of the Cavs will change if Billups does come on board and replace Griffin? Well, there's this:
Hurry https://t.co/yTAe9eU2LF- ☕netw3rk (@netw3rk) June 20, 2017
One has to wonder if Griffin and Gilbert disagreed on the major transaction the Cavs need to make this offseason to catch up to the Warriors. Griffin was working on potential deals to acquire George or Butler. Could Gilbert have a different vision that involves the long-rumored Kevin Love for Carmelo Anthony swap? We're about to find out in the coming weeks.
Regardless, Gilbert seems set to bet on a rookie executive to get this team to a fourth consecutive Finals and to figure out how to recalibrate the roster to challenge the Warriors.
3. LeBron James was not briefed on the situation
Per ESPN's Brian Windhorst, LeBron -- who had pushed for Griffin to get a contract extension -- was not consulted by Gilbert prior to the owner's decision. Even with LeBron's return to Cleveland, an uneasy relationship with Gilbert remains. To put it plainly, it's strictly an owner-employee relationship. LeBron exerts plenty of power over the franchise, and Gilbert is paying for a team with the most salary in the league to keep the best player in the world satisfied.
It's been reported that LeBron is both disappointed about Griffin's departure and concerned about the Cavaliers' direction going forward. LeBron has one year left on his contract, and there have been rumblings that he could be headed West to join either the Lakers or Clippers in the summer of 2018. This feels eerily familiar to LeBron's first tenure in Cleveland, when frustrations over the team's front office led, in part, to his infamous decision to join the Miami Heat.
The Cavs had a general manager that LeBron liked and trusted, and now that guy is gone. A new general manager will be installed soon. And we can all start the clock again on the speculation that LeBron's second tenure in Cleveland might be coming to an end sooner than later.