Cavaliers fire GM Chris Grant
David Griffin -- previously vice president of basketball operations for Cleveland -- will assume Grant's responsibilities as acting general manager until a replacement is named. In the team's release, owner Dan Gilbert thanked Grant for his eight and a half years with the Cavs franchise, but explained that the team's disappointing season provided the impetus for the change:
Frankly, there wasn't much else for Cleveland to do in light of its performance season. The coach Grant signed to a five-year, $20 million deal (Mike Brown) has taken the roster he built to a 16-33 record thus far, with reports abound detailing the displeasure of the team's top players. At absolute best this is a team in complete disarray, a state for which Grant is at least partially responsible.
Since taking over as Cleveland's general manager in June of 2010, Grant did well to stockpile draft picks and clear cap space, though he has largely failed to capitalize on either. Kyrie Irving remains a top-level prospect, but this is a team that had four top-four picks in three seasons. Of the others, Tristan Thompson (No. 4 in 2011) is the best of the bunch, and is a useful but limited player. Things got messy, though, in selecting Dion Waiters (No. 4 in 2012) and Anthony Bennett (No. 1 in 2013), the former of which is an on and off-court problem while the latter is in the midst of a historically miserable rookie season. Both still have plenty of time to turn things around, but there's something to be said about underwhelming returns on three straight picks of such incredible value.
It doesn't help matters that neither of Grant's other first round picks -- Tyler Zeller (No. 17 in 2012) and Sergey Karasev (No. 19 in 2013) -- have redeemed much to date. In all, such first round selections are supposed to provide a franchise with its basic framework; they bring a very cheap base of talent, with contractual limits engineered to keep a growing player in town through a second deal. Yet with those picks Grant drafted a good player (Thompson) with better ones available, reached for a decent player (Waiters) without bothering to work him out or meet with him in person, and made an out-of-left-field choice (Bennett) with the No. 1 pick that may well have cost him his job. That's not just a run of bad luck, but suggestion of a deeper problem in the process behind the picks.
Still, it's to Grant's credit that he landed a few of those picks (most notably the No. 1 selection that brought Irving) through sharp dealing, and flipped another to acquire Luol Deng from the Bulls this season. Were running a team as simple as acquiring assets, Grant would be in a good place. But he earned skepticism and criticism with each questionable pick, and made matters worse with counterproductive roster construction. It takes an odd thought process to look at a team with two over-dribbling, defenseless guards (Irving and Waiters) at its core and decide it needs a third, yet Grant did just that in guaranteeing Jarrett Jack $18.9 million over three seasons with a partial (and minor) guarantee in the fourth year.
That Andrew Bynum flamed out so spectacularly also hasn't helped matters, nor should it. His signing was a risk that Cleveland was in a position to take, but in context Bynum's issue is just one among many. Kyrie Irving reportedly wants out of town, Dion Waiters is reportedly a problem in the locker room, and hell -- even Deng, an enthusiastic go-getter, has reportedly soured at the Cavs experience after less than a month. Whenever the latest report of Cleveland's dismay trickles in these days, it doesn't even register the faintest bit of surprise; this is the team that Grant built, and Brown -- the man he chose to oversee this process -- is his second hired coach (after the since-fired Byron Scott) to lose the team completely.
This was a season of established expectation for the Cavs, who made clear their postseason intentions at every turn. Yet in response to that challenge, Grant whiffed on his bigger plays (Bynum, Bennett, Jack) while also missing on roster need and player compatibility. As Sam Vecenie so succinctly put it at Fear the Sword: "[2013 was] a rather remarkable offseason. Literally not one of the six new roster players that Grant brought in has had a positive impact." And there Grant's turn as general manager of the Cavaliers fell. If this were a dysfunctional team still in the playoff hunt, Grant might still have a job. There was plenty to like, after all, in the way he amassed a trove of draft picks, if not in the way he used them. But all of those moves have translated to exceedingly little in the final balance, as Grant went about constructing a roster in a way that neither secured the best talent available nor the most sensible fit. That was enough to make him the first victim of rousing accountability in Cleveland, though likely not the last.