The Cleveland Cavaliers have PF Anderson Varejao on the trading block. With an NBA-leading 14.8 rebounds per game, a strong defensive presence and improved offensive efficiency, it's easy to see how a contender could consider trading for the big Brazilian.
According to a report by ESPN's Marc Stein, various teams have expressed interest but are discouraged by the increasing asking price due to Varejao's production:
The Cavs, sources say, want multiple young assets in return for the 30-year-old, who...possesses a very manageable contract that calls for Varejao to receive $9.1 million next season with a $9.8 million team option in 2014-15. The Thunder are the rare title contender also blessed with the sort of youth/stashed draft picks to appeal to Cleveland, but sources say OKC has shown little interest to date.
If the Thunder aren't interested, here are three other early contenders that should definitely listen to packages to acquire Varejao before the February trade deadline.
Although they are third in the league in points allowed per game playing characteristically sound defense under head coach Tom Thibodeau, the power forward position is one where the Bulls are seriously lacking.
Carlos Boozer has been an All-Star before, but his best basketball days are behind him. He is shooting a career-low .472 percent from the field in 2012-13, and doesn't play particularly great defense.
Varejao, meanwhile, provides slightly better shooting at 48 percent, but obviously leads the league in rebounding and is an exceptional defender who would be a dream fit in Thibodeau's scheme.
An improved mid-range game has also helped open up Varejao's game on the offensive end, since he struggles to establish post position at times. If he were paired up with Joakim Noah on the interior, Chicago would rival any other tandem of big men in the league on the defensive end.
It would be easier for Varejao to be a cog in the offense once superstar PG Derrick Rose returns as it is, because there wouldn't have to be so many shots delegated to the likes of Boozer. There would also be more opportunities for Rose to get out in transition with an exceptional, energetic power forward who can get back to the other end in time to play stellar defense.
New York Knicks
It may be unwise for the Knicks to do anything to adjust the chemistry that has gotten them to the top of the Eastern Conference. However, taking a look at Varejao certainly couldn't hurt since Mike Woodson has been skewing New York toward establishing more of a defensive identity.
The Amar'e Stoudemire dilemma would be a huge factor into whether GM Glen Grunwald would even consider Varejao. Stoudemire's health problems are a red flag, and the Knicks may look to get rid of him.
According to HoopsHype.com, Stoudemire has the most expensive contract on the Knicks, and is due an average in excess of $20 million over the next three years. If he can't stay on the court and produce to the level his max contract would indicate, it would be unwise for the Knicks to hold onto him and his salary cap-killing contract.
The Cavs want to maximize their assets for Varejao, and absorbing Stoudemire's contract while they rebuild may not be the worst course of action.
In fact, Stoudemire would pair quite well with 2011 No. 1 pick Kyrie Irving and give Cleveland a much-needed jolt on offense for a couple years. After that, the Cavs will likely have developed into a playoff contender, and could trade his expiring contract for another valuable piece.
Golden State Warriors
With the extended absence of Andrew Bogut due to an ankle injury that was more serious than initially anticipated, the Warriors are lacking an interior defensive presence outside of Carl Landry.
That's where Varejao would plug in perfectly. Not only could he shore up Golden State's defense, he could also fit into smaller lineups as the center with star PF David Lee's explosive offensive abilities still on the floor.
The Warriors also have several young players that the Cavs could be interested in, if they're willing to part ways with a first-round pick in addition to dropping Varejao.
An unfortunate season-ending injury to SG Brandon Rush hurts the possibility of a trade slightly, because the Cavs could definitely use another perimeter scorer. Landry is essentially a cheaper version of Varejao, and the Warriors may not want to part ways with him. That said, it would be hard to say no to a Landry-for-Varejao swap.
In guiding Golden State to a 16-8 record to start his second season, head coach Mark Jackson should warrant early consideration as coach of the year. If he could improve the team's 17th-ranked defense in terms of points per game with Varejao, there's no telling how far the Warriors could go in 2012-13.