INDEPENDENCE: Near the end of Friday’s news conference introducing Andrew Wiggins, Cavaliers General Manager David Griffin rattled off his to-do list for this summer: improve defensively, increase the basketball IQ and add more shooters.
“All of those moves will be forthcoming,” he said. “Andrew is just the first of what I hope is a monumental offseason.”
Given the availability of a certain free agent in a few days, it was a fascinating choice of words. So I circled back later in the day and asked Griffin about that phrase.
“I was trying to say momentous and said the wrong word,” he laughed, knowing full well the attention it would receive. “Monumental, momentous … what are you gonna do?”
Griffin was trying to express how he’s hopeful the Wiggins selection will create momentum for what should be an exciting summer, but his tongue tripped him up and there was no going back.
Truth is, the addition of Wiggins already makes it a monumental offseason. Following the foot injury to Joel Embiid, there were believed to be two remaining franchise pillars available in this draft. The Cavs came away with one of them.
But it was Griffin’s other surprise statement late Thursday night, in the hours after selecting Wiggins, that caught my attention.
“If Andrew finds greatness in this league, it’s going to be as a very big 2 guard,” Griffin said.
To be clear, as the roster is presently constructed, the Cavs privately believe Wiggins will step in immediately as the starting small forward. But Griffin’s statement was revealing nonetheless.
Free agency begins Tuesday, and with guys like Chandler Parsons, Gordon Hayward and, of course, LeBron James available, they apparently may not be done shopping for small forwards.
Parsons and Hayward will both be restricted free agents and could be incredibly difficult to pry away from their current teams. The James situation is well known, so it’s likely Wiggins indeed will begin the season as the starting small forward. But there are at least options for coach David Blatt.
Griffin likes players who are big for their position and versatile enough to defend multiple spots. That certainly defines Wiggins, who is only 19, already 6-foot-8 and perhaps still growing.
The fact Griffin has already declared him a future shooting guard provides the Cavs with flexibility if the Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters pairing flops yet again. If Blatt can figure out how to make it work, Wiggins slides in at small forward and suddenly the Cavs have a dynamic trio of wings all 22-and-under who can torment the NBA for years to come.
If Irving and Waiters can’t make it work, Wiggins can move to shooting guard and Waiters will come off the bench. Or perhaps the Cavs will swallow hard and trade one of the two.
With Irving’s contract extension talks just days away, the Cavs remain hopeful something can be quietly completed. They are optimistic Irving will love playing in Blatt’s system and have been encouraged by how eager he has embraced the newcomers. He and Wiggins chatted briefly after the pick was made Thursday and Irving welcomed Blatt to the Cavs via his Twitter account shortly after the new coach was hired.
Given all the conjecture that has surrounded Irving and this extension, a quick and clean negotiation would be pleasing for all involved. Whether it unfolds that way remains to be seen.
Irving has a busy summer with his FIBA commitment to Team USA. Ideally, he’d probably like to get an extension done before departing for Spain. But it’s worth noting when Paul George signed his max deal last year, it wasn’t completed until the end of September.
If he has any questions about the changing future of the Cavs, Irving likely got his answers in the last few days. He spent time in New York recently at Steve Nash’s charity soccer exhibition, where he could’ve asked Nash all about his new GM. Nash, after all, knows Griffin well after the two spent many years together with the Phoenix Suns.
Wiggins’ arrival is just the beginning to what surely will be an active summer. Whether it’s momentous or monumental ultimately lies in the eye of the beholder.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.