As another trade deadline came and went, Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant sat before the media collective and discussed his most recent bout with franchise yoga. After weeks of unrolling the team’s proverbial mat, discussions of potential poses and the deflection of all distractions during the methodical inhales and exhales, the team left its second consecutive trade deadline more financially flexible than when it arrived.
Ramon Sessions’ contract was expiring. The proud owner of a player option for the 2012-13 season, having been traded from mid-market team to mid-market team since landing in the league, Sessions was essentially six weeks away from finally having the fate of his employment in his own hands. Toiling in a reserve role for a rebuilding team, firmly planted behind the face of the franchise and only being afforded extra playing time when said face is confronted with concussions or influenza, is no way to earn a living. At least by choice.
Grant sat on a stool fit for a 6-foot-10-inch individual. The perfect resting place for a man who just finished successfully walking the tightrope that connects short-term gains and long-term strategy. A move largely aided by the closed-eyed home run he hit one year earlier, moving a reserve player who in his relative prime for what amounted to roughly 1.5 draft picks is tough to disparage. Sure, the Cavaliers took on the wholly American salary of small forward Luke Walton, but tactical moves leading into the 2011-12 season provided Grant with salary cap space that allowed for such a trade to take place.
First-round draft picks, regardless of placement, come with a cost. Grant, along with Dan Gilbert, have long been linked to the desire of buying into the first round, but have either run into a roadblock fixed by a counter party or one by a perceived lack of talent worth acquiring. Without having to worry about an 11th hour trade on draft night, the Cavaliers can now go into the June event armed with four selections — “flexibility” — at their collective disposal.
Gilbert and head coach Byron Scott were well involved with the decision to move Sessions, as was the player. Grant prides himself on dealing with his players as human beings as opposed to number-producing assets. Sessions was looking for a chance to earn more playing time; doing so on a championship contender is an additional bonus. Christian Eyenga was a former first-round pick, a player who the team had relatively high expectations for, a player who learned a lot about the game of basketball during his stay in Cleveland. But at some point, the business aspect of the game takes over. Thankfully for the players involved, it appears that none of them were blindsided by said move; the communication lines in Independence were more than open.
But back to that whole “one-and-a-half draft picks” item. Not only do they acquire the Lakers’ first-rounder this coming summer, but the right to swap their worst pick with the Lakers in 2013. If the Miami Heat finish in the top three of the league with the aging Lakers sliding down a few spots in the win column, the Wine and Gold can improve themselves by seven or eight more draft spots. Draft picks, regardless of slot, provide crane-like flexibility. What may not be perceived to have value today can increase in value at the drop of a hat. Not that anyone expects the Lakers to be in the lottery next season, but why dwell on the unknown?
Soon, Luke Walton and Jason Kapono (!) will be wearing Cavalier Wine and Gold. Their roles are undetermined, but also relative non events despite opinions to the contrary. Just like Baron Davis one season ago, they’re the cost of acquiring an additional draft selection — any production received is a bonus. Sure, the Cavaliers take a hit from a short-term production standpoint. Sessions was providing a consistent 11 points and five assists per night, providing essential downtime to a rookie point guard who loves to run the floor. But with Chris Grant’s sites set on sustainable contention at a date to be determined, moving a living asset for a paper one was necessary.
What Grant chooses to do with his bevy of draft picks come late June remains to be seen. It is widely expected that at least one of the selections will be moved, potentially packaged for something of additional value. Gilbert’s willingness to take on additional salary will undoubtedly help if this endeavor is indeed chosen.
On paper, the daily variety that relives the last 24 hours, the box scores may not be as prolific as they were before Ramon Sessions was moved to Los Angeles. But back in the team’s War Room in Independence, Grant can casually sit back, wipe the sweat from his forehead and take in a post-workout Gatorade. Flexibility provides an element of freedom. Another trade deadline well done, his franchise inherently in a better place than it was 24 hours earlier.
Photo: Amy Sancetta, AP