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Cleveland Cavaliers: Breaking Down the Awesomeness of Anderson Varejao

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Cleveland Cavaliers: Breaking Down the Awesomeness of Anderson Varejao
David Richard-US PRESSWIRE

Nothing more than a hustle player. Doesn't do anything but flop. No offensive game at all.

For years, the Cleveland Cavaliers' Anderson Varejao has been unfairly labeled. Now in his ninth pro season out of Brazil, the 30-year-old Varejao is enjoying a career season.

As of November 26th, Varejao was averaging an NBA best 14.1 rebounds to go along with 14 points, 3.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game.

Not bad for just a flopper.

The truth is, Varejao has undergone an amazing transformation in his nine seasons with the Cavs. Traded to Cleveland along with Drew Gooden back in 2004, the Brazilian big man in now Cleveland's longest-tenured player.

So what makes Varejao so special, exactly? First, we have to acknowledge the hustle.

I dare you to find someone who sacrifices their body as much on a nightly basis as Varejao does. Whether it be a loose ball, rebound, errant pass or halftime shoot-around, Varejao is going 110 percent after the basketball all the time.

To go along with his hustle is his efficiency. Getting Varejao in the game means things are going to happen for your team. His PER this season is 22.80, good for fourth among all NBA centers.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The next factor is his improved offensive game. Never before have I seen a player improve so much on one side of the ball throughout his career.

In his first four seasons, Varejao shot only 48.3 percent from the field and had no jump shot whatsoever. He was considered an offensive liability and got almost all of his baskets off offensive rebounds and open layups.

Now, the difference in the Cavs offense with and without Varejao is night and day. According to 82games.com, Cleveland scores an impressive 109.1 points per 100 possessions with Varejao on the court. With Andy on the bench, the Cavs put up just 96.0.

Much of this is thanks to his newfound jump shot that he's worked so hard on the past few years. Consider these shooting numbers, found on HoopData.com:

Year At Rim 3-9 Feet 10-15 Feet 16-23 Feet
2007-08 64% 29% 28.6% 23%
2012-13 66.7% 42.1% 33% 37%

Varejao has improved by leaps and bounds in his overall offensive game, highlighted by his ability to now step outside and make opposing defenders respect his jumper.

His best offensive game came early in the 2012-13 season against the Brooklyn Nets, where he showed off his offensive skill set here:

The next part of his awesomeness is also his most impressive talent: rebounding.

Last season in 2011-12, Varejao was fourth in the entire NBA in total rebounds per game at 11.5. Apparently this number wasn't good enough.

Now leading all NBA players in offensive and total rebounds per game, Varejao is putting up a career and NBA high 14.1 per game. His rebounding stats across the board are all at the top of the league.

Category Stat NBA Rank
Total RPG 14.1 1st
Offensive RPG 5.6 1st
Defensive RPG 8.5 4th
Off Rebound Rate 17.1% 3rd
Def Rebound Rate 31.3% 2nd
Total Rebound Rate 23.5% 2nd

What makes his rebounding particularly impressive is the fact that Varejao is 6'11" with a modest vertical leap. He's not an intimidating 7'3" like former Cavalier Zydrunas Ilgauskas. He doesn't have the leaping ability of someone like Dwight Howard.

Instead, Varejao uses his intelligence and understanding of the game to position himself better than the taller, more athletic players around him. What he lacks in physical tools he more than makes up for in intelligence, determination and hustle.

What most casual NBA fans don't get to see are all the little things Varejao brings to the Cavs every day. The diving for loose balls, the great pick-and-roll defense, the way Varejao seems to irritate every single opponent he comes up against with his intensity and passion for the game.

In nine seasons with the team, Varejao has become one of the franchises most popular players for all of these reasons and one more key one. In a lot of ways, Anderson Varejao is Cleveland.

He wears his emotions on his sleeve, plays a blue-collar style of basketball and is as hard of a worker as they come. His game isn't flashy, it's effective. His play isn't pretty, it's productive.

While other players are more concerned about their brand and face on every media outlet possible, Varejao prefers to stay low key and keep working hard. Anderson Varejao may never get the recognition he deserves outside Northeast Ohio, and that's OK with him.

While he may not be all over the national media, as the Cavs' Fred McLeod would say, "Ele está em todo lugar." He is everywhere on the basketball court and could very well be the NBA All-Star Game's starting center in the East while leading the league in rebounding.

Not bad for just a flopper

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