At 18-33, the Cleveland Cavaliers don’t have the look of your typical buyer at the NBA trade deadline. Sitting only four games out of the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race, however, the team just might be more interested in adding than selling at this stage—at least if you believe new general manager David Griffin.
When you also consider that Griffin hasn’t been on the job all that long, recently replacing the fired Chris Grant, the Cavs would appear to be even less likely to be a buyer. That’s not the case, though, as he said lately that he’d prefer to buy than sell at this point, per the News-Herald and The Morning Journal. Griffin’s argument, in a nutshell, is that it is difficult to get better by selling.
It makes sense and Cleveland fans are probably glad to hear that as it could mean that the team tries to find a way to re-sign the recently acquired Luol Deng. Griffin may have no choice but to deal Deng away if he feels he’s unsignable, but the commitment to buying instead of selling could be attractive to the All-Star player.
Another interesting development out of the buying mentality is to see what happens with guard Dion Waiters. Waiters, as I wrote back in November, was widely believed to be on the trading block. While I have no doubt that he could be had for the right price, Griffin’s recent stance makes it a little more likely that he’d remain in a Cavaliers jersey unless he were part of a deal to bring a significant upgrade into town.
Most of all, though, Griffin’s decision just flat out makes sense.
Cleveland is having a rough year, but with the way Anthony Bennett has struggled and with having to deal with the Andrew Bynum conundrum earlier in the season, it’s easy to understand why the team has underachieved. Still, there’s a lot to like about the Cavs moving forward.
The Cavaliers have one of the best young players in the NBA in Kyrie Irving, and if you believe the hype about the league becoming one where point guards are more important than centers, the franchise has its cornerstone. There’s also (for now, anyway) Deng who is a more-than-capable Robin to Irving’s Batman.
Bennett, the former No. 1 pick, has struggled. Miserably. However, he’s still only 20 years old and to write him off as a player based on one bad season would be folly. He has a lot of work to do but showed far too much in college to insist that he can’t put it all together in a couple of years. Even if he never becomes a bona fide superstar, there’s the chance he becomes an above average contributor.
In addition, the franchise has improving big man Tristan Thompson, who’s averaging nearly a double double this season, as well as some excellent ‘glue’ guys in Jarrett Jack and Anderson Varejao. The team is missing some another star, but if they can find a way to hold onto Deng, this isn’t a franchise starting from scratch.
If Cleveland is able to add a player, two likely position candidates would be at shooting guard or center. The Cavs have some capable players at those positions, including Jack, Waiters, and C.J. Miles in the backcourt and Varejao/Tyler Zeller in the middle, but there’s not a single star among that group. Cleveland could use an impact player at either of those positions and some of those players would probably be candidates to go (as well as possibly a draft pick or two) if the Cavaliers were able to swing a deal.
It might seem crazy to some, but Griffin has the right mindset.