Report Card Grades for Cleveland Cavaliers 2014 Offseason so Far
It's been quite an offseason for the Cleveland Cavaliers, with the potential for more excitement to come.
The Cavs already won the NBA draft lottery while naming a new general manager and head coach. They wound up keeping the first overall pick, orchestrated a handful of trades and signed a certain former star.
While it's far from over, this will end up going down as the most active and exciting offseason in team history.
The question is were all of their moves the right ones? Did Cleveland make the correct hiring choices? Did they give up too much in trades?
It's report card time for the Cavaliers.
Something tells me their marks, as well as the 2014-15 season expectations, will be high.
David Griffin Becomes Full-Time GM
David Griffin joined the Cavaliers front office in 2010, was named acting general manager on Feb. 6 this year and became the official leader of the front office on May 13.
It's only fair that we grade his hiring at the time it happened, and not include events that have transpired since.
Griffin worked for the Phoenix Suns for 17 years, building a reputation as an analytics expert who also understands the value of team chemistry.
Former NBA player Grant Hill played for the Suns when Griffin was in Phoenix and has nothing but good things to say about him.
"I think the world of Dave Griffin,'' Hill said in a telephone interview with Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I worked with him in Phoenix, got to know him very well and consider him a friend. I just think he's got a smart basketball mind and a really good feel for the pulse of the team and the pulse of the players."
Griffin's first major move with the team was trading for Spencer Hawes, who ignited a near playoff run. Although the Cavaliers were 16-33 before Griffin took over in February, they went 17-16 to finish the season.
His promotion was a wise one, as Griffin has been a part of the rebuilding process for four years and is very familiar with the makeup of the team.
While his name doesn't carry the prestige of a Phil Jackson or John Calipari, Griffin should be a great hire for the Cavs.
Cavs Name David Blatt Head Coach
"We've got the best coach in the entire Eastern Hemisphere!"
These were the words of 92.3 The Fan's Dustin Fox and Anthony Lima, which may actually be true.
David Blatt has made a name for himself overseas, first as a player and later as a coach. After his college days at Princeton, Blatt played professionally in Europe for 12 years before coaching the last 20 for various countries and teams.
The Cavs official website gives us some more insight on Cleveland's new head man:
Blatt, 55, most recently coached perennial Euroleague championship contender Maccabi Tel Aviv, where his team finished with a 54-18 record this season, winning the Israel League, Israeli Cup and the Euroleague Championship. During his six years as head coach (2001-03 & 2010-2014), Blatt led the team to six Israeli Cup Championships and five Israeli League Championships. Over the past four seasons, Blatt’s teams went 225-55, (.804 winning percentage) including a team-best 70-13 record in 2011-12.
Blatt also coached the Russian men's Olympic team, leading them to a bronze medal in 2012.
While he's considered a brilliant basketball mind, Blatt's lack of experience in and around the NBA does carry some concern.
The Cavs went outside the box with their hire, taking a gamble on Blatt instead of going with NBA veterans like Alvin Gentry or Vinny Del Negro.
It's hard to imagine Blatt won't at least be an upgrade over Mike Brown, who was fired (for a second time) by the Cavs in May.
Andrew Wiggins Selected No. 1 Overall
A three-way race for the top pick ultimately ended with the Cavaliers picking Andrew Wiggins ahead of Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid.
After Embiid's foot injury, the Cavs narrowed their selection to Wiggins and Parker, ultimately settling on the former.
"All of our scouts felt [Wiggins] had the most upside," said Cavs general manager David Griffin, via NBA.com.
Given Embiid's injury and Parker's unwillingness to play for the Cavaliers, per ESPN's Chad Ford (subscription required), Wiggins was absolutely the right pick.
It's worth noting, however, that Wiggins has yet to sign his rookie contract, possibly opening up a trade to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love.
Whether he stays in Cleveland or turns into a trade asset for Love, the Cavs made the right choice by taking Wiggins.
Jack, Karasev, Zeller Traded
The Cavs have made a few trades this offseason, but none as significant as their first two.
In these, Cleveland sent Jarrett Jack and Sergey Karasev to the Brooklyn Nets for Marcus Thornton. The move was purely a salary dump, as Jack is still owed over $12 million between now and 2016.
The Cavs immediately turned around and sent Thornton to the Boston Celtics along with Tyler Zeller and a top-10 protected 2016 first-round pick for, well, nothing.
It then became obvious the Cavaliers were going all-in on LeBron James, clearing enough salary space to sign him to a max contract.
It was a risky move, one where the Cavs had to sacrifice essentially three first-round picks for nothing in return. Zeller had made a nice improvement in his game and was set to play an increased role behind Anderson Varejao this coming season. Karasev could develop into a sharpshooter, and losing the 2016 first-rounder hurts.
Jack was overpaid and underperformed. No tears shed there.
While it turned out to be the right move (spoiler alert!), the Cavs did have to give up an awful lot just to dump one (not even terrible) contract with Jack.
Seriously, the Celtics wouldn't have just taken Thornton, much less without Zeller and a first-rounder?
The Cavs were obviously desperate to dump some contracts, and Boston smelled blood in the water.
While Cleveland made the right move, they had to sacrifice a good amount to do it.
Cavs Sign LeBron James
"I'm coming home."
With one carefully put together Sports Illustrated article, LeBron James finally ended his free-agency extravaganza with the announcement he would be returning to the Cavaliers.
One cannot put into words what this means for Cleveland, and sports in general.
We've never seen a star like James drafted by his hometown team before, nor had we ever seen one leave said team. Four years is a long time, but not that long. For the Cavs organization, however, it's felt like an eternity.
Not only is James coming back to the Cavaliers, but he's going to be surrounded by a roster that has the potential to be better than any other he played for in seven years.
Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett are a terrific young nucleus. The Cavs could choose to keep them alongside James and let them grow together, or ship some off for veteran help.
Although they've been rebuilding for four years, the signing of James vaults Cleveland into instant contention. The Eastern Conference is extremely vulnerable, as the Cavs now represent one of, if not the best of the bunch.
James isn't only the biggest signing in Cavaliers history—he could end up being the most impactful free agent in the history of sports.
Mike Miller, James Jones Sign with Cleveland
After James signed with the Cavs, other dominoes began to fall.
Two of those landed in Cleveland in the form of Mike Miller and James Jones.
Both played with James in Miami, each collecting two rings in the process. Miller was amnestied by the Heat in 2013, a move that was quite unpopular among Heat players.
While Miller and Jones now represent the oldest (and most veteran) players on the Cavaliers, their skill sets are both desperately needed.
Cleveland finished last season 18th in both three-point makes and percentage. Their best three-point shooter was actually center Spencer Hawes (44.8 percent), who recently left to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers. With drive-and-kick players like Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and now James, the Cavs needed some additional outside threats.
Miller shot 45.9 percent from deep last season for the Memphis Grizzlies, playing in all 82 games. His contract is worth $5.5 million over two seasons, the second year being a player option, per ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman.
Jones made 52 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes for Miami, tops in the NBA. Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal reports his contract is for one year at the veteran minimum of $1.45 million.
The Cavs still need a backup center and rim protector, but there's nothing bad to be said about two veteran sharpshooters at bargain prices.
Final Grade (So Far)
The Cavaliers have already enjoyed the greatest offseason in their 45-year history, and it's not even close.
Cleveland had a 1.7 percent chance of winning the draft lottery, yet somehow ended up with Andrew Wiggins. They traded Mike Brown for David Blatt. Jarrett Jack and his contract were shipped off to Brooklyn. Veteran wing players have been added to help the Cavs win now.
Oh, and the best basketball player in the world declared his love for the area while committing the rest of his career to playing in Cleveland.
Not too shabby.
While more moves may still be on the way, the Cavs have already won the summer.
All stats provided by Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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