David Griffin is Govt of the 12 months

Pelicans’ VP of Basketball Operations David Griffin.
Picture: Getty Photos

Earlier than Feb. 8, New Orleans Pelicans government Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin was getting dragged for the staff’s sorry state he oversaw. The Pelicans have been 21 and 32, headed towards one other disastrous season till that time. On the identical time, Zion Williamson averted the staff in any respect prices, rehabbing a fractured proper foot on the opposite facet of the nation in Portland. In his third 12 months on the helm, Griffin was en path to bombing in New Orleans. The Zion-to-Knicks rumor mill was swirling. The Pelicans appeared headed for an infinite rebuild in the event that they misplaced their seemingly disgruntled celebrity earlier than signing his rookie max extension. Determined and in dire straits, Griffin knew he needed to carry out a miracle to retain his job and switch across the hope and luck of one of many league’s most misbegotten franchises.

All that modified on Feb. 8.

C.J. McCollum, the sharpshooting, All-Star-main an getting old core in Portland, is headed in direction of a complete rebuild. After belly surgical procedure, Damian Lillard was out for the season, and the Blazers have been making no secret about their epic tank. Seeing a possibility to enhance the roster, Griffin pounced, fleecing the Trailblazers for McCollum, whereas solely giving up Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, and Didi Louzada, in addition to a protected 2022 first-round choose, and two future second-round picks. With this commerce, the Pelicans paired one other All-Star with a blossoming centerpiece, Brandon Ingram, whereas protecting the remainder of the Pelicans core intact.

This commerce alone ought to have vaulted Griffin into the entrance of the Govt of the 12 months race. However he wasn’t completed but.

Included within the deal was a wage cap-saving transfer by the Blazers to incorporate Larry Nance Jr., who by no means labored out in Portland as a floor-spacing massive with elite athleticism and playoff expertise whereas with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Griffin knew what Nance could possibly be since he traded for a younger Nance when he was Cleveland’s high entrance workplace exec.

For the Pelicans, Nance has reached full potential. Nance was the X-factor for the Pelicans bench unit earlier than being eradicated in a tough-as-nails six-game collection with the Phoenix Suns. The double-double machine was a part of the explanation the Pelicans nearly had an opportunity this collection till Devin Booker returned and made all of New Orleans put some respect on his identify. As well as, Nance’s protection, hustle, and offensive rebounding gave the Pelicans a relentless risk on the glass when beginning heart Jonas Valančiūnas took a breather.

Talking of Valančiūnas, McCullom wasn’t Griffin’s first sensible commerce this season. Through the summer time, Griffin swapped outdated dinosaur Steven Adams for Valančiūnas. The Lithuanian Viking introduced ground spacing and toughness to a Pelicans staff in want of frontcourt assist with the sidelining of Zion. Valančiūnas is never mentioned in NBA circles and stays one of many league’s most underrated gamers. Matching up in opposition to the Suns’ Deandre Ayton, he out-motored the younger massive and routinely posted double-doubles all through the collection.

Earlier than the season, Griffin signed Devonte Graham from the Charlotte Hornets after selecting to not re-sign Zion favourite Lonzo Ball. Graham wasn’t nice, however he confirmed he could possibly be a strong backup now {that a} sure rookie has emerged.

Jose Alvarado could be the following nice New York level guard. The Queens native battled the Level God, Chris Paul, each minute they shared the courtroom. Alvarado is a feisty, tenacious defender who performs with a BallIsLife panache and annoyed CP3. It’s a testomony to Griffin’s scouting division in New Orleans that Alvarado went undrafted earlier than signing with the Pelicans. The opposite two Pelicans rookies, Herb Jones (drafted 35th) and Trey Murphy III (drafted 17th), performed important roles within the playoffs. Murphy confirmed an actual knack for perimeter, capturing 47 p.c from three in 20 minutes per recreation.

In the meantime, Jones emerged as the most effective rookies of an already stacked 2021 Draft Class. Jones’ protection is a mixture of Lu Dort and Bruce Bowen. Whereas proudly owning one of the unassuming NBA names, he’s a 6-foot-7 phenom who can swap on all three perimeter positions, play the passing lanes, and block three-point makes an attempt with ease, due to his elite athleticism. The Pelicans may need received this 12 months’s draft, which is rounding out to be the most effective ever.

 Griffin’s success in trades and the draft make him the clear front-runner for the annual award of Govt of the 12 months. Certain, the Chicago Bulls may need been splashier, however the strikes the Pelicans made have been extra below the radar (Valančiūnas, Jones, Alvarado) and contributed to a greater playoff efficiency general. Whereas the Bulls’ window is a mere two-to-three years, providing Zach Lavine re-signs, the Pelicans look to be aggressive for a minimum of 5. And that’s with out mentioning the elephant within the room — Zion Williamson. Seeing that he’s wholesome and indicators the Max Rookie Extension this summer time, the Pelicans shall be including 27 PPG to an already star-studded line-up. If everybody returns subsequent 12 months, the Pelicans will trot out a beginning 5 of Alvarado, McCullom, Ingrahm, Zion, and Valančiūnas. Holy hell, that’s good.

 It’s adequate to win Griffin again the respect he nearly misplaced as an exec, and could also be adequate to win all of it subsequent 12 months. Think about the French Quarter events if that occurred? We’re speaking concerning the man who helped convey a championship to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Stranger issues have occurred.

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