One man holds the Cavs' draft fate in his hands - You may have heard of him

David Griffin's Pelicans hold picks 1 and 4, and Koby Altman needs to prepare for everything

Jake Chapman
June 19, 2019 - 7:55 am
Feb 18, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin talks with the media before the game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

© Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports


Wednesday marks the 2-year anniversary of former GM David Griffin and the Cavaliers “mutually deciding not to extend David’s current contract.” On Thursday, Griffin’s predecessor Koby Altman will make the most important draft selection of his career as the Cavs select fifth in the 2019 draft, and one man has more power over who will be available to Altman than anyone else. It truly is Griff’s world.

With the 1st and 4th picks in the draft and a boatload of future assets and young talent, David Griffin can basically do whatever the hell he wants for the next 36 hours. He can hold on to the pick and draft Jarrett Culver or De’Andre Hunter or bleeping Bol Bol if he so desires. He can flip the pick to a PG-needy team like Chicago or Phoenix, two teams who would love to snag Darius Garland or maybe Coby White if they’d prefer. He could move up for RJ Barrett or Ja Morant. He could move way back for Atlanta’s picks 8 and 10. There were even reports Tuesday of the Pelicans moving the pick to Washington as part of a deal for Bradley Beal, although that seems like a long shot. From a Cavalier perspective, it’s a good thing Altman knows Griffin well, because he’s going to have to prepare a series of contingency plans so the Cavs can react quickly to whatever the Pelicans do.

The least appealing outcome for the Cavs would likely be the Pelicans keeping the pick, because it stands to reason that they’d select Culver, Hunter or Cam Reddish. Ideally, all three of those players are on the board Thursday night when the Cavs go on the clock. All three are good fits in Cleveland for different reasons, and all three have been tied to the team in one way or another. With Jrue Holiday as the only consequential veteran on the Pels’ roster, keeping the pick and selecting Garland or White doesn’t make a ton of sense, although that would be a welcome development for the Cavs.

The more likely scenario it seems, and one the Cavs would prefer, is the Pelicans trade back with the Bulls or Suns. That likely puts one of the point guards in the top 4 picks, again leaving the Cavs with their choice of the three wings. If the Pelicans were to trade way back with the Hawks or another team looking to move up like the Timberwolves or even the Celtics, it becomes a bit of a crapshoot again, although both Boston and Minnesota do need a PG (as you might have heard.) A trade back with the Hawks would be precarious, the one position the Hawks do not desire is a PG.

Even if the Pelicans traded up with Memphis or New York in an effort to snag RJ Barrett, the Grizzlies and Knicks would probably move back and either team would select Ja Morant or Garland, so that changes very little. Basically, the Cavs are sitting pretty unless the Pelicans keep the pick or make a trade with a team that’s set at PG, so hopefully Griff continues his wheeling and dealing.

That brings us to Altman’s plan in general. If Garland is still on the board at 5, do the Cavs select a 2nd guard who’s 6’2 to pair with Collin Sexton? Garland has drawn comparisons to Damian Lillard because of his pull-up shooting proficiency, but would he hinder Sexton’s development or help it? A lot has to do with how you view Sexton long-term. If you think he can develop his play-making skills more and become a better facilitator, you want to keep the ball in his hands and surround him with shooters, slashers and screen-setters. If you want Sexton to develop off-ball and project him as just a complementary option who specializes in spotting up, make the move for a Garland type guy if he’s there. My guess is the Cavs don’t know yet what Collin is, but the smart course of action would be to arm him with everything he needs to develop as a true point guard. Then, if he struggles, you’ll know for sure. If you cut short his development by drafting a player with a duplicitous skillset, the team may be better off overall, but Sexton may not fully maximize his potential. It’s a tricky predicament.

Another option, and one I think I prefer, is to get the Atlanta Hawks on the horn and figure out a way to turn the 5th pick into picks 8 and 10. The Hawks may ask for a little more compensation in return, but the Cavs have pick 26, boatloads of future picks and a lot attractive expiring contracts and veterans on short-term deals that may entice Atlanta. Everyone will tell you this draft isn’t particularly top-heavy, but it has a strong middle class. Taking two stabs at 8 and 10 vs. one stab at 5 sounds like a good idea to me. I’d be interested in guys like Jaxson Hayes, Sekou Doumboya or PJ Washington if the Cavs were to pull this off.

Strap in, it’s going to be an exciting 48 hours, and within two weeks the entire face of the league will change as free agency opens. This summer will be vital to the Cavs’ rebuild – Altman can tighten the timeline by a few years if he pulls the right strings, beginning Thursday night. At the lottery, it was chance that held the Cavs’ fate. Now it’s Griff. How fitting.