The Cleveland Cavaliers find themselves in an extremely tough situation right now. There are many factors contributing to this, and they are at a cross roads. The need to make a deal is as obvious as the hurdles they must jump. These are three huge problems for them right now, and these need addressing as soon as possible.
The Cavs are not at the races right now, for whatever reason things just aren’t happening for them. They are under performing and they need a boost before the trade deadline. They need to bring someone in to freshen things up, and give them a lift before the playoffs, otherwise they are in danger of not making the NBA finals, something which would be catastrophic when they have LeBron James on their roster.
LeBron may be leaving in the summer. This gives them two massive decisions to make. Do they go all out to bring further quality in, giving LeBron a reason to stay? Or do they prepare for him leaving, and keep the Brooklyn pick they have, ensuring they have something to work with in the future?
At some point, LeBron will be leaving this franchise. It may be this summer, it may be down the line. The question for the Cavs right now, is do they cash in on their future, to give themselves another shot at winning a title with LeBron. Will they ever get a chance to come close to the NBA finals when he leaves? If not, this could be their only chance of winning a title for the next decade.
The answer to problem one, and a reason to make LeBron stay which could solve problem two, would have been a move for Blake Griffin when he was available.
Griffin was the face of the Los Angeles Clippers until he was traded away to the Detroit Pistons. A huge move from the Clippers, and a sign they are giving up on this season, and concentrating on a rebuild over the coming years. Now, Griffin is not only a player for this season, he is a quality player, tied down to a contract for a very long time, giving the Pistons someone to build around.
It may come as a surprise that Griffin has left the Clippers, just months after signing a huge $171 million deal that was supposed to take him to retirement with the Clippers. How times change in just a few short months.
During his time in LA, Griffin has been in the spotlight, he has been the face of the franchise and that is something he wouldn’t get in Cleveland. That is something that would probably work in his favor, he seems quite a quiet person off the court, and would happily blend into the background with his team mates, instead of standing out and being the man everyone wants a piece of.
Why The Cavs Should Have Made a Move for Blake Griffin
Those three problems we mentioned at the start, Griffin would certainly solve problem one, and he would go a long way to solving problem two.
To Win Now
The Cavs would be a better team with Griffin on the court, and there is a chance they would get an even better player than the one we have seen play for the Clippers.
As mentioned, Griffin doesn’t appear to want the spotlight in LA, there is no chance of him getting the spotlight in Cleveland, which could make him happier playing the game, and increase his output. If you’re Blake Griffin, it makes a lot of sense to join a team that has what you just lost with Chris Paul’s departure just six months before.
The Cavs have to be about winning now with LeBron on the team, and Griffin would have enhanced their chances of doing that. As much as the Brooklyn pick that the Cavs have right now is potentially vital to their future, they have to play the situation as it stands now. Right now, they have a generational talent on their roster, one who might not be around for too long, and one who needs a little help to ensure the Cavs are challenging in the NBA finals this season.
As far as this season goes, and as far as problem one goes, then the Cavs could desperately do with someone like Blake Griffin on their roster. He would have made them a better team and it is disappointing they have not made a move to land him.
To Keep LeBron
There is a chance LeBron moves this summer, and while the Cavs need to be wary of this, they also need to be positive, and make positive moves to ensure he stays with them. By signing no one, and struggling to compete this season at the top level will not do anything to convince LeBron he should remain with the Cavs. If they want to convince him to stay, they have to show him they are serious about competing, and they will give him all the tools he needs to be successful.
One tool to give him would have been Blake Griffin. There is no doubt that Griffin would have come in and played a big role right away for the Cavs, and bringing him in shows LeBron that the Cavs are backing him. LeBron knows he is a hugely talented player, but he needs his team to back him, and keep bringing quality into the franchise, to ensure they are always competing at the top level.
The Cavs are going to struggle with their cap space this summer, that is obvious, and bringing in Griffin would not have helped their problems in any way. The only way they could have kept their cap space the same, especially when the Clippers wouldn’t have much room themselves to take salary on would have been to involve a third team. More on that scenario later in this article when we get to the actual trade make up.
The bottom line with LeBron James is that he is going to choose to do what is best for himself. If the Cavs are the best situation for him to be in, he will stay with them after this season. The Cavs should use this as a positive, and make themselves the best situation for LeBron to be in, not worry about assets just in case he decides to leave.
Signing Griffin would have been a huge statement of intent from the Cavs, not only to LeBron, but to the entire NBA, and it is a trick they have missed now Griffin has signed for the Pistons. When it’s all said and done, Griffin is a powerful argument for James to believe in Cleveland’s chances of competing.
The one thing that sticks out straight away about any potential trade that could have happened between the Cavs and the Clippers is the cap problems both teams have. While the Clippers are thrilled to get rid of the $30 million plus from dealing Griffin, had he gone to the Cavs, they would have needed to take back the majority of that salary through other players from the Cavs. This would have put the two teams in a difficult trading position, and one where money mattered importantly on both sides.
The Brooklyn pick would have to be included, to give the Clippers something to work with, but that doesn’t help the Cavs create cap space to bring Griffin in. The only way this could have worked, and it would have been a huge blockbuster, would have been to bring in a third team to the trade table. The third team would likely have the contracts Cleveland lacks to provide for the second team.
Those two would have had to find a team capable of taking a large salary, and brought them in on the action, to ensure the Clippers didn’t receive too much salary back from the Cavs. There are many teams who would have been interested in doing this, and taking a player from the Cavs, in return for sending one of their lower salaried players, or a draft pick to the Clippers.
This way a deal could have turned out something like this:
Cavs receive Blake Griffin
Clippers receive the Brooklyn pick, one player from the Cavs, one player or draft pick from Team X
Team X receive a player from the Cavs
In a deal like this, the Cavs get two players and their salaries off the books, leaving room for Griffin to join. They don’t make their salary positon any better, but they do bring a great player onto their team, and someone who will help them on the court.
The Clippers dump the full Griffin salary, but only take one salary back from the Cavs giving them cap space for the summer. They also pick up the Brooklyn pick, and either another pick or a younger prospect from Team X to give them more roster rebuilding tools.
The Cavs should have gone for a Blake Griffin, and made sure they found a deal that worked for both parties. This was a missed opportunity, and one that would have solved their problem of short term success and roster building in an attempt to keep LeBron with them.
Let’s see if the Cavs make a deal before the February 8 deadline, but right now they look like they need to do something if they are to seriously challenge for the NBA Championship.