David Griffin is one of the more well-known General Managers in the NBA.
His first stint as GM came with the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2014 through 2017.
He signed LeBron James when he came back to Cleveland and built a championship roster that won the Cavs a title in 2016.
After 2017, Griffin left the Cavaliers after not being able to reach a contract agreement.
Griffin would later detail how he was “miserable” while running the Cavs.
He “didn’t love the game anymore” after the 2016 Finals because he became so obsessed with winning.
In between leaving the Cavs in 2017 and being hired by the New Orleans Pelicans in 2019, Griffin spent a good bit of time as an analyst for NBA TV.
Griffin was given the tall task of handling the Anthony Davis situation.
Davis had publicly declared he wanted out of New Orleans before Griffin signed on.
People have differing views on the Pelicans’ GM, but he is not overrated.
He won an NBA title with Cleveland and has now assembled a solid young core in New Orleans.
He Won an NBA Title
When discussing how talented an NBA GM is, you must first look at their teams’ success.
During his 3 years with the Cavs, they won 161 games – an average of just short of 54 wins per season.
And most importantly, they won the 2016 NBA title.
While it is debated about the state he left the Cavs in, all GMs must make the decision between short and long-term outlook.
They had just signed James in the 2014 offseason, and LeBron was not interested in waiting around for players to develop.
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) August 23, 2014
Losing these players left Cleveland with a bare cupboard once James left.
But when judging Dave Griffin – none of that matters.
His task at the time was to surround James with the talent to help him win an NBA title and he did just that.
The rosters Griffin put together got the Cavs to three straight finals and one more once he left.
Those who try to discredit Griffin often point to his draft picks and short-sighted moves.
But Griffin did exactly what he was asked to do, and that was built a championship team.
Griffin Makes the Big Move
Two trades were mentioned earlier with the deals for Kevin Love and JR Smith and Iman Shumpert.
The trade for Love in 2014 involved dealing the 2014 #1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins.
Other GMs may have kept the prospect in hopes he could develop into another star.
Griffin didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger to acquire an All-Star power forward to play next to James and Kyrie Irving.
That trade eventually brought the title to Cleveland as well as 4 finals appearances.
The other big move he made came more recently with the Pelicans.
With Anthony Davis demanding a trade, Griffin was in a tough predicament.
He could have tried to salvage the relationship with the All-NBA big-man and build a roster around him.
Instead, Griffin managed to extract as much value as possible out of the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers knew Davis wanted out, yet Griffin still managed to get a king’s ransom in return.
Has there been a trade in recent memory that has benefitted both teams more than the AD trade?
•Anthony Davis ➡️ NBA Champs
•#4 pick (➡️ Jaxson Hayes)
Both are contenders for years to come. pic.twitter.com/nRBkd2orcP
— Trade Bait Podcast (@BaitTrade) December 18, 2020
Brandon Ingram seems destined to be a superstar.
The 23-year-old is coming off a season that saw him average 23.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG, and 4.2 APG while winning the Most Improved Player award.
He shot 39.1% from 3 on 6.2 attempts-per-game – well above his previous career-high of 2.4 attempts-per-game.
Lonzo Ball has continued to demonstrate his tremendous court vision while slowly improving his shooting stats year-after-year.
And Josh Hart seems to be a prototypical 3-and-D wing in the modern NBA.
The #4 pick in the 2019 draft was subsequently traded to the Atlanta Hawks for Nickeil Walker-Alexander, Jaxson Hayes, and a future first.
All told, the trade of Anthony Davis netted the Pelicans the following:
- Brandon Ingram
- Lonzo Ball
- Josh Hart
- Nickeil Walker-Alexander
- Jaxson Hayes
- 2021, 2023, and 2024 1st Round Draft Picks
Griffin, in addition to winning the lottery to draft Zion Willaimson in 2019, has quickly built a solid young core in New Orleans.
Losing an All-NBA caliber player can ruin a franchise for years.
Griffin managed to completely retool the Pelicans and has them as a playoff contender just 2 years after dealing Davis.
Griffin is a Talented GM
The main knock against Griffin from his time with the Cavs is his disregard for the future of the franchise.
With the Pelicans, he has proven he can also build with an eye towards the future.
Griffin has a history of winning which should be the only measuring stick for an NBA GM.
He won the title with the Cavs by making the tough win-now moves that can occasionally ruin a franchise’s future.
Now with the Pelicans, he is doing a great job at acquiring young talent while also stock-piling draft picks.
Once Zion, Ingram, and Lonzo begin the reach their primes, Griffin will be able to use those picks to acquire win-now talent.
No matter the state a franchise is in, Griffin seems to have the green thumb.