A report from ESPN this morning indicates that the Boston Celtics have signed forward Jarvis Varnado of the Sioux Falls Skyforce in an attempt to add depth to their thinning frontcourt. The Celtics were in need of another big after the departure of Darko Milicic and the recent injury to Chris Wilcox that will leave him out of the rotation for a month.
Jarvis Varnado is a 6'9" power forward originally drafted in the second round by Miami in 2010, but spent time playing overseas and most recently in the NBA D-League in order to gain the experience necessary to play in the NBA. The 24-year-old is averaging 14 points on 55.7 percent shooting, 10 rebounds, and an impressive 3.9 blocks per game for the Skyforce this season.
It is unlikely that Varnado will be able to contribute to the team immediately, as it will take some time to adjust to Boston's style of play and his new teammates. However he does possess the two skills the Celtics are in desperate need of to improve their current standings: shot-blocking and rebounding. Varnado is considered to be the best shot-blocker in the D-League, and he currently holds the NCAA Division I record for blocked shots.
The Celtics did take a chance on a D-League big man known for blocking shots last year when they signed Greg Stiemsma, who quickly asserted himself as a big contributor for the team. Stiemsma averaged nine points, 10.8 rebounds, and 4.5 blocks per game in the 2011-2012 season playing for the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Varnado and Stiemsma have surprisingly similar stat lines, which is a positive sign that Varnado's style of play may be able to provide the Celtics the help they need in the front court.
There does exist one major difference between Varnado and Stiemsma that may hurt his chances of following in Stiemsma's footsteps towards success. Varnado is a full two inches and 30 pounds lighter than Stiemsma was when he signed with the Celtics, which could lead to a difficulty of duplicating similar success against the larger and more athletics bigs at the NBA level.
Varnado does however appear to have better defensive timing than Stiemsma had when he was called up, and uses his strong athletic ability and massive wingspan to make up for his lack of height. It is currently unclear whether the Celtics plan to integrate him into the offense as a deep rotation player, or if he will remain on the bench as an emergency back-up.
There is very little risk in the signing of Varnado, but there is a clear chance of a strong upside if he can be assimilated into the offense and he can adjust to the style of play at the NBA level. The Celtics have successfully integrated a player with a similar skill set as Varnado in the past, so there is no reason that Boston could not get him closer to his true potential. The next few weeks with the Celtics will be a great test to see if Varnado can earn the trust of Doc Rivers and work his way into the rotation in order to contribute to reverse the team's front court issues.