With front office in turmoil, will the Cavs still go after Jimmy Butler?

Does Jimmy Butler see a landing spot? (AP)

Let it never be said that David Griffin approached his final day with the Cleveland Cavaliers suffering from an acute case of senioritis.

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According to multiple reports, the longtime NBA staffer spent Monday working the phones trying to figure out a way to position the capped-out, repeater-tax-paying and pick-strapped Cleveland Cavaliers to make a “monster” acquisition:




Those talks came to a halt on Monday evening, though, when Griffin left the Cavs — perhaps in a “mutual” decision, perhaps not, and apparently without a heads up to franchise centerpiece LeBron James — after helping shepherd the team three straight NBA Finals appearance and the first NBA championship in franchise history as Cleveland’s general manager. From Brian Windhorst and Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

From his office during the day, Griffin burned up the phone lines as he attempted to engage teams in a blockbuster trade. He knew his contract was due to expire at the end of the month, but he wasn’t acting like it, even though many trade calls had to start with questions about what was happening with his future.

He’d had discussions over the weekend with the Indiana Pacers about Paul George. But on Monday, he was trying to find a way to trade for a lottery pick. He called several teams, including the Chicago Bulls, and told them he might be able to get his hands on a top-five pick if they’d be willing to do a deal for Jimmy Butler, sources said.

The Cavs were trying to work a three-team trade using Kevin Love and the No. 4 pick belonging to the Phoenix Suns, sources said. When the talks leaked in the media, some wondered whether Griffin was attempting to create a buzz. [Cavaliers owner Dan] Gilbert is often influenced by media reports, and here his general manager was out trying to be aggressive, which the owner indicated he wanted. Late into the afternoon, Griffin was still on the phone trying to put something together.

But finally, after a months-long dance, the end of the road came. The deal Gilbert was willing to offer wasn’t going to get it done. Griffin was not interested in agreeing to something he wasn’t comfortable with. Just like that, it was over.

Just how long Griffin did work on the deal? Damn near until the end, it seems.


From Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today Sports:

At 6 p.m. ET on Monday, Griffin was on the phone assessing Jimmy Butler’s desire to play with LeBron James and the Cavs, according to two people with direct knowledge of the calls. They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the conversations. By 7:30 p.m. ET, Griffin and the Cavs had parted ways.

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical has reported that Gilbert has targeted retired player and ESPN commentator Chauncey Billups to join Cleveland as president of basketball operations, and hire a new general manager after that. For now, though, the Cavs are pressing on as is, without Griffin and ousted vice president of basketball operations Trent Redden, their top two front-office decision-makers.

“We have no announcement at this time related to new leadership of the Cavaliers basketball operations group,” Gilbert said in a team statement. “But we are confident our current front office will continue to aggressively explore and pursue opportunities to improve our team in the weeks ahead.”

The big question: will a Cavs front office now reportedly “run by a conglomeration of” front-office types led by assistant GM Koby Altman, with Gilbert reportedly “‘very engaged’ in the Cavs’ business,” continue to “aggressively explore and pursue” a deal to import Butler?

The 27-year-old All-Star swingman is coming off the best year of his career, and stands as one of the best two-way talents in the game. Like Indiana Pacers star Paul George, Butler is precisely the sort of versatile defender and playmaker who could help bolster Cleveland’s efforts to topple the Golden State Warriors come the 2018 NBA Finals … provided the Cavs could figure out how to put together a cache of attractive enough assets to make it worth the Bulls’ while.

Multiple reports out of Chicago corroborate ESPN’s indication that Suns general manager Ryan McDonough had been in the mix in Butler talks, perhaps more as facilitator than destination. And according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Griffin wasn’t the only one in Cleveland “assessing Butler’s desire to play with LeBron and the Cavs” over the past week:

According to multiple sources in Cleveland, not only have Cavaliers players – including LeBron James and Kyrie Irving – been reaching out to Butler directly and through back channels over the last five days to gauge his interest, but those players liked what they heard back from the Bulls’ three-time All-Star.

According to multiple sources in Cleveland, not only have Cavaliers players – including LeBron James and Kyrie Irving – been reaching out to Butler directly and through back channels over the last five days to gauge his interest, but those players liked what they heard back from the Bulls’ three-time All-Star.

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Cowley also has Kyrie “contacting some of his former Team USA teammates and letting them know that he might be willing to push for a trade, especially if he feels the Cavs’ run could end quickly with James able to opt out after next season.” But let’s deal with one wild trade scenario at a time.

Trade talk surrounding Butler is, to a somewhat comical degree, nothing new. The Minnesota Timberwolves reportedly engaged the Bulls on a Butler-for-Kris Dunn deal after the 2016 NBA draft, but talks fizzled. The Boston Celtics have frequently been connected with Butler — including back at February’s trade deadline — but nothing came of it.

Minnesota reportedly remains interested. Boston, now in control of as many as seven first-round picks over the next three drafts after winning 53 games and having the cap space to land a max-caliber free agent, still needs more firepower to get to the next level. There will be suitors.

The question now: will a Cavs team that still could definitely stand to upgrade its wing rotation over Richard Jefferson, Iman Shumpert and Kyle Korver, but that’s currently in the middle of major front-office upheaval, be one of them? Evidently, Griffin did his level best to make sure Cleveland could get into that game … even after he was no longer part of it. From Joe Vardon of cleveland.com:

Former Cavaliers general manager David Griffin left for his successors potential trades to bring either Chicago’s Jimmy Butler or Indiana’s Paul George to the team, sources told cleveland.com, and one or more deals Griffin constructed could happen without him.

In either case, a third team would be involved and would take All-Star forward Kevin Love in exchange for the mix of picks and role players the Bulls and Pacers seek to rebuild in the event they choose to deal their franchise player. […]

Sources believed that Gilbert and Koby Altman, who is essentially serving as the Cavs’ acting GM, could end up swinging a major trade that was first cooked up in Griffin’s final hours on the job.

The Cavs pulling off a deal Griffin crafted with him no longer at the helm seems like a very, very weird thing. If the Bulls have finally decided to make their peace with moving on from Butler, though, it might become just the latest oddity to add to the long, long list of weird stuff that happens during draft week — because it seems like this thing really might have legs.

“It’s either Boston or Cleveland, but he’s going,” a league executive texted CSN Chicago’s Vincent Goodwill on Monday.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!