CLEVELAND — Cavaliers general manager David Griffin dreaded making this phone call.
There’s nothing easy about chasing an NBA title.
Needing to add depth, defense and another piece to perhaps help the Cavs beat Golden State in June, Cleveland acquired forward Channing Frye from the Orlando Magic on Thursday in exchange for popular center Anderson Varejao in a three-team trade.
The Cavs, who begin the season’s unofficial second half with the best record in the Eastern Conference, sent Varejao and a protected future first-round draft pick to Portland for a second-round pick. The Cavs then traded that pick and guard Jared Cunningham to the Magic for Frye, who has some postseason experience and will give coach Tyronn Lue more options with his second unit — at both ends of the floor.
“We believe very strongly that we’ve added a player that’s a great fit for what we’re trying to do both on the court and off, both from a floor spacing standpoint, from a versatility defensively standpoint and frankly just in terms of knowing exactly what he needs to do and what his role is going to be,” said Griffin, who previously worked with Frye.
“I’ve been with Channing in the playoffs multiple times in Phoenix and I know what that looks like and our team is about to find out that he knows exactly how to do what we’re asking him to do and he’s going to do it very well.”
In addition to getting a quality player, the Cavs are expected to save more than $10 million in luxury taxes with the move.
Griffin said trading Varejao, a fan favorite for 12 seasons in Cleveland, was tormenting.
Vareajo, equally known for his hustle and hairstyle, was one of LeBron James’ most beloved teammates and “Wild Thing” had grown into a cult hero during his time with the Cavaliers. However, the 33-year-old Varejao’s playing time has dwindled significantly this season and he had all but dropped out of the rotation. He’s averaging just 2.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 10 minutes per game.
“He exemplified everything we want a Cavalier to be about,” Griffin said. “His diligence in getting back from injury year after year, his hard work, his effort, his intensity, those are things that are going to be remembered here and they are incredibly appreciated. It made this trade an incredibly difficult one to do from a human level in a real sense. It was as a very difficult phone call to have, there’s very little that I’ve enjoyed less in my professional career than letting him know that he was traded.”
Frye isn’t much of an upgrade over Varejao as he has averaged 5.2 points and 3.2 rebounds for the Magic. However, the 6-foot-11 Frye does have decent range and is shooting 40 percent on 3-pointers.
“He’s a floor-spacing shooter,” Griffin said. “He can guard both 4s and 5. His length will enable him to play some 5s that we may not have been playing currently as well. Again, we’re not getting him to be a defensive stopper. I don’t want to say that at all. But he has versatility there. This is not a non-defender. This is a very smart, team defensive player.
The 32-year-old Frye had his best seasons with the Suns, averaging career-bests of 12.7 points and 6.7 rebounds in 2010-11.
Because he plays so hard, Varejao has had injury problems in recent years. He’s owed $9.7 million this season and is set to make $9.3 million in 2016-17. The Blazers will reportedly waive him.
Griffin was willing accept any backlash in dealing Varejao in order to get the Cavs in better position to chase a championship after coming up short in 2015. Griffin fired coach David Blatt earlier this season despite the team’s success and he’s trying to find more help to get James the title he covets most.
“We hope it’s a piece that really furthers the cause,” Griffin said.