Acting Cavs general manager David Griffin repeatedly stressed “fit” issues and criticized the team’s toughness and basketball IQ during a season-wrap-up press conference Tuesday at Cleveland Clinic Courts.
“We need to be bigger,” Griffin said. “We need to be much smarter as a team; our basketball needs to improve. Our shooting needs to improve. I feel strongly that our toughness needs to improve. Those are things we need to address all within the confines of fit.”
But Griffin also said the Cavs will have at least $26 million of salary cap space and plenty of assets to improve, despite earning a lottery pick the fourth consecutive year.
“We’ve been in something that maybe would be described as asset-accumulation mode and what I would like to see us be in is targeted acquisition mode,” Griffin said. “We have the asset value on this roster in terms of veterans who are well thought of, young players who are extremely talented, draft picks into the future, our current draft pick, cap space, an owner who will spend money and stop at nothing to succeed. We have the things we need to be attractive while we go look for the right pieces.”
The vibes weren’t overly positive about the future of coach Mike Brown, who was rehired by owner Dan Gilbert for the 2012-13 season after being fired in an effort to keep LeBron James.
It’s also uncertain whether Griffin will receive the general manager position after replacing the fired Chris Grant or whether Gilbert will hire a president to oversee basketball operations.
“We’re all under review,” Griffin said in response to a question about Brown’s situation. “In terms of timing and who will be making that call, we’re going to get together and collectively talk about the future our vision of that future and where we need to go. If we’re all on the same page, I see no reason this group can’t be successful and if we’re not we need to make whatever changes put us on the right page.”
One of the major questions that must be answered is whether first-round picks Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters can play together successfully.
"Relative to their relationship I have no qualms at all telling you that they’re fine," Griffin said. "In terms of their fit on the court, I think you’ve seen flashes of them being very, very good together. What you’ve seen is they’re part of some of our very best lineups. But those lineups require spacing and shooting to play with them. They’re two ball-dominant drive-and-kick creators, that requires and open floor and that requires shooting and we need more of those things.
"It also requires the basketball IQ to play off of those players. This is not something that’s done in a vacuum. It’s not about the two of them, it’s not about their fit, it’s about our fit. I think it’s too easy to look at them and to blame either one of them. That’s not what’s gone wrong here. It’s a collective thing."
Griffin said discussions about whether to offer Irving a max contract extension will take place after July 1.
"There’s a lot of conversation that goes into this," Griffin said. "The kinds of offers that people talk about you making a player, those aren’t things that are decisions made in a vacuum and they’re not things that are done without talking to those players and really understanding where their hearts and minds and spirits are. That’s something that’s going to be really important to me as we move forward.
"I think Kyrie as a player is very much engaged in this organization and he’s engaged in getting better. We’ll go from there."
Griffin said if the Cavs are picking ninth in the draft, which is where their lottery probabilities lie, he wants to make sure the player they choose will mesh with the players they choose to keep.
"Nick's bow tie not withstanding, if we're at nine, we do feel like there is talent there," he said of owner Dan Gilbert's son, who has brought the team good luck in the lottery. "We feel like there is talent that people are going to want as well. We're not in a situation where we're married to bringing in a young player. It's time for us to start targeting the right fit.
"If a player at nine fits us and radically advances the bar in the short term, then we're going to embrace that. And if the player sitting there at nine is not the player who puts us in the best position, then we're going to need to do what we have to do. You can't let hope on the draft dictate what you do. You have to act on the knowledge that we've gained and that's what we're going to do. We're going to build in a very direct manner and sometimes I think we put too much into the guessing game of the draft. We won't be guessing."