This past summer, head coach Byron Scott lost his job with the Cleveland Cavaliers after he couldn't turn things around. With the Cavs off to a 9-15 start this season, could general manager Chris Grant be the next to go?
With questionable draft picks the past few years, a team enduring its fourth straight losing season and the man he was hired along with already canned, Grant is certainly feeling the heat.
We know owner Dan Gilbert has his heart set on the playoffs this year and will likely make changes to the front office should Cleveland miss the postseason once again.
Grant would likely be the first to go, given that he's had six first-round picks (including two No. 1 overall) to repair the roster with.
That being said, one has to consider the entire body of work when deciding Grant's fate.
Here are some good reasons that Grant, even if Cleveland misses the playoffs, should remain the Cavaliers' GM.
He's a master of collecting draft picks
We mentioned the six first-round picks the Cavs have gotten to use in their rebuilding process the past three years.
Grant personally orchestrated the acquisition of all three additional picks, with more soon on the way.
Take a look at the table below for a complete guide.
|Player Traded||Team Traded With||Draft Year||Round (Overall)||Player Drafted|
|Mo Williams, Jamario Moon||Los Angeles Clippers||2011||1st (1st)||Kyrie Irving|
|Ramon Sessions||Los Angeles Lakers||2012||1st (17th)*||Tyler Zeller|
|LeBron James (sign and trade)||Miami Heat||2013||1st (19th)||Sergey Karasev|
|J.J. Hickson||Sacramento Kings||2014-17**||N/A||N/A|
|LeBron James (sign and trade)||Miami Heat||2015||N/A||N/A|
|Jon Leuer||Memphis Grizzlies||2015||N/A||N/A|
*Cavs traded 24th, 33rd and 34th overall picks for 17th
**Pick is protected 1-12 in 2014, 1-10 in 2015-17
Grant has certainly been busy in his three-plus seasons in Cleveland, and it shows.
Obviously, the first domino to fall was his trade of Mo Williams and Jamario Moon to the Clippers for Baron Davis and an unprotected first-round pick that turned into Kyrie Irving.
Had Grant sat back and not made that deal, Cleveland would have endured a 19-63 season with just the fourth overall pick and a terrible draft to show for it.
It's possible that the Cavs would have passed on Tristan Thompson to grab a player like Kemba Walker instead. Because of Grant, Cleveland now has an All-Star point guard and a double-double power forward just two and a half years after the draft.
He's also collected extra second-round picks from trading players like Justin Harper, D.J. Kennedy and Allen Crabbe, all of whom have done next to nothing in the NBA.
Draft pick success is still TBD
Grant and his team have left many a draft expert shocked on selection day.
Irving was the clear choice, although some pegged Derrick Williams as a better first overall pick in 2011. Thompson was the first shock pick by Grant, but he has made tremendous strides in his first three seasons and is averaging 11.6 points and 9.9 rebounds this year.
Dion Waiters was a huge surprise at No. 4 overall in 2012. Cleveland offered all of their picks for Anthony Davis that year, but the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans) shot them down. Waiters ended up being the pick and was second among all rookies in scoring last season (14.7 PPG). He's played extremely well for the Cavs as of late, providing a scoring punch off the bench.
Grant packaged the 24th, 33rd and 34th overall picks together in a deal with the Dallas Mavericks for the rights to draft Tyler Zeller at No. 17. After losing Anderson Varejao to a split leg muscle last season, Zeller started 55 games for Cleveland and tied for the team lead in blocked shots.
Again winning the first overall pick in 2013, Grant made the controversial selection of Anthony Bennett, even though there was no consensus No. 1. Bennett has been awful thus far, but the fourth quarter of a preseason game against the Orlando Magic is proof that he can ball.
It's too early to judge Grant's draft success.
It's easy to point to Victor Oladipo's nice start with the Magic and say that the Cavs should have drafted him, and maybe they should have. The truth is, we won't know for sure this season, next season or maybe the one after that.
Draft classes certainly can't be judged after 20 some games.
What we do know is that Grant nailed the Irving pick, was right on Thompson despite popular opinion and is starting to see great basketball from Waiters.
There could have been a lot of "quick fixes" along the way, but Grant has always opted for overall talent and long-term upside instead, qualities that need time to reach their potential.
Free-agent gambles paying off
Before this past summer, Grant was relatively quiet in free agency.
Some would call him the anti-Danny Ferry, choosing to preserve cap space instead of signing average role players to long, expensive deals.
Those moves damned the Cavs and their salary cap for years, as Cleveland ended up trading bad contracts for other bad contracts. As a result, they were never able to bring in a second star alongside LeBron James.
Grant has done an excellent job of maintaining cap space while making smart, calculated signings. He's been instrumental in keeping money available for 2014, when so many attractive free agents will hit the market. When signing Earl Clark, Alonzo Gee, Andrew Bynum and even Anderson Varejao, all have a team option the Cavs can decline for 2014 and instead choose the extra space.
Speaking of Bynum, few GM's likely even considered signing the former All-Star after he missed the entire 2012-13 season.
Grant was not only willing to gamble, he played with house money.
Signing Bynum late in free agency, when most big names were already gone, showed Grant wasn't taking any risks. He gave the Cavs an out in the first year for just $6 million and a team option on Bynum that Cleveland doesn't have to decide on until July 11th.
Bynum is still rediscovering his post game but has played well this season with 8.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in just 19.5 minutes per game.
Jarrett Jack was a smart, reasonable signing with just a guaranteed $18.9 million over three years. He's already one of the Cavs' best leaders and has been strong off the bench playing both guard positions.
Some smaller signings have made a difference for the Cavs, too. Undrafted players like Alonzo Gee (157 starts the past three-plus years) and Matthew Dellavedova (shooting 45.8 percent on three's) have played big roles for Cleveland.
Overall, Grant has done a great job turning the Cavs around.
He's already given us Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Andrew Bynum, Dion Waiters and Jarrett Jack in three years. The future is also very bright, with Cleveland holding team options on four players heading into a star-laden free-agency summer.
There isn't an untradeable contract on the Cavs, and roster flexibility is at an all-time high. All that's missing are the results on the court, something Grant has little control over at this point.
Should the Cavaliers end up missing the playoffs, Grant should still get to keep his job.
All stats via basketball-reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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