September 16, 2014

Medina
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Cavs commentary: Some advice; Cleveland should keep Brown, Griffin

Acting Cavaliers general manager David Griffin will meet with the media this morning at Cleveland Clinic Courts to review the 2013-14 season. Normally, such proceedings include a decent amount of talk about the future, but these aren’t normal times.

For one, Griffin doesn’t know whether he will retain the GM job. Two, even if he does stay on, it probably has not been determined — and definitely hasn’t been announced publicly — whether he will be calling all the shots or working under a to-be-determined basketball president.

Given that, the likable and outgoing Griffin will be limited in what he can offer about the future of coach Mike Brown, because there’s a chance the GM may still be with the organization long term but not have final say on the matter.

In addition, all questions put to Griffin about possible trades and team goals will involve more than the normal amount of uncertainty due to the GM’s uncertain future.

Given all that, here’s our unsolicited advice to Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and, in turn, Griffin:

Keep Griffin as GM: Griffin is about a foot shorter than previous GM Chris Grant, but their personalities and approaches are even more different.

Grant was soft spoken and polite, but he was also tight-lipped, controlling and a micromanager. He would have rather gone to the dentist and had three wisdom teeth removed, sans novocaine, than talked on the record to reporters.

Griffin is outgoing, cooperative and overflowing with optimism and confidence. He’s so comfortable behind a microphone that reporters have to make sure their tapes are rewound to the beginning and recording at a slow speed.

It may have been largely coincidental, but the Cavs won six straight games immediately after Griffin took over for Grant and started preaching about having fun and remembering that basketball was a game.

An outgoing personality and good quotes don’t guarantee a good GM, but Griffin quickly displayed he had a knack for the job by acquiring Spencer Hawes from Philadelphia for, well, basically nothing. His personal dealings and relationships with players were also impressive.

The Cavs ended the season with a 17-16 record with Griffin at the helm. Some of that improvement may have happened if no switch had been made — Brown and the players get credit, too — but the guy deserves a chance to do the job for a full season and, if sufficient progress is made, much longer.

Don’t hire a president: If Gilbert decides Griffin deserves the GM job on a permanent basis, it doesn’t make sense to force him to answer to someone else. After all, Grant didn’t have to, so why should Griffin?

If Gilbert doesn’t think Griffin can do the job, he should get rid of him and bring in someone else. It’s as simple as that.

This isn’t football or baseball. There are 15 players. There’s free agency. There’s a draft. There are trades. There are salary cap regulations. Don’t clutter things with two chiefs. Put Griffin — or someone else — in charge and have all coaches and scouts answer to him.

Keep Brown: This has nothing to do with the fact Brown just completed the first season of a five-year, $20 million contract, with all but the last year being fully guaranteed.

It has everything to do with the fact Brown can coach. Sure, he has faults — he needs serious help and diversity when it comes to offense, his team stunk when it came to last-second inbounds plays and, most damning, it took him way too long to reach his players — but he can coach.

The Cavs’ 17-16 finish was largely attributable to the fact the Cavs finally started doing what Brown had preached all season — digging down, playing defense, moving the ball and playing hard for 48 minutes.

There were still too many nights when the Cavs did not do that, and that is troubling. The hunch, however, is that Brown will have a much better read on his team when training camp opens next season. He’ll be more comfortable, more confident and, in turn, more demanding.

If you don’t give effort at the defensive end, you sit on the bench. If you don’t play unselfishly, you sit. If you make mistakes, make them while playing aggressively and the right way.

The feeling here is Brown will find a way to get that message across to everyone from Kyrie Irving to Carrick Felix.

Offer Irving a max contract extension: Though Irving needs to mature and show winning is his top priority, there is no way the Cavs can give up on him. He’s 22 years old and extremely talented in a sport where extreme talent is of the utmost importance.

That’s why the Cavs should — and almost certainly will, regardless of who is GM — offer Irving a five-year extension for approximately $80 million. If Irving takes it, fine. If he wants only four years, that’s fine, too.

If Irving doesn’t take the extension and goes into stalling mode, the situation will get stickier. In short, if Irving doesn’t put pen to paper at some point, the Cavs will have no choice but to start exploring trade possibilities.

Try to sign Hawes, but let Luol Deng walk: Hawes isn’t a great defender and he’s not much of a low-post scorer, but he can rebound, pass and knows how to play.

Best of all, he can shoot from behind the 3-point line. On a team with ball-dominant guards like Irving and Dion Waiters, that’s a must, so the Cavs should offer Hawes something along the lines of four years, $35 million or five years, $43 million, maybe even a bit more.

Deng turned down a reported three-year, $30 million extension from Chicago before the Bulls traded him to Cleveland and is going to be taking a hefty pay cut from the $14.3 million he earned this season. Even if he can be had for $10 million per, the Cavs should consider spending their money elsewhere, given his diminishing skills.

Don’t overpay for Tristan Thompson: It’s gone largely unmentioned because of Irving’s situation, but Thompson can also be signed to an extension this summer. The Cavs will make him some type of offer — his agent is LeBron James confidante Rich Paul, incidentally — but they’d be wise to lowball Thompson a bit.

The kid is decent, but he struggles mightily against top-tier power forwards and may never get much better than he is right now. The last thing Cleveland needs is to have major dollars tied up in an average player for major years.

Don’t trade Waiters: Sometimes the best move is to make no move at all. That’s the case with Waiters.

The Cavs have another full season before they have to worry about extending Waiters’ contract, so why not let it play out? If he and Irving can’t make it work, then a move can be made (not to mention, Irving could make that decision for the Cavs by failing to sign an extension).

Now, if an irresistible deal comes along, Waiters should not be considered untouchable. But the Cavs don’t have to do anything.

Send Nick Gilbert to the NBA Draft Lottery: Cleveland will have a 1.7 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick and a 6.1 percent chance of getting a top-three selection through the May 20 lottery. What’s not to like?

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.