Cleveland Cavaliers veteran big man Anderson Varejao was phased out of the team's rotation this season and has an expensive contract, so it's not a surprise he's on the move to the Portland Trail Blazers at the NBA trade deadline.
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reported Varejao was traded to Portland as part of a three-team deal that sends Channing Frye to Cleveland from Orlando. Sam Amick of USA Today confirmed the report. The Magic received draft picks and expiring contracts, while Portland also received a 2018 first-round pick from Cleveland.
"Anderson is a special player, teammate and person," said Cavaliers general manager David Griffin, per a statement on the team's official website. "Few players have earned the respect, support and admiration of an entire organization, fan base and community as Andy did here. Those are all things that made this a difficult deal to do."
It turns out Varejao's move to Portland was short-lived, as he was waived by the Blazers on Thursday, per Erik Gundersen of the Columbian.
Varejao's best basketball seems to be behind him. Although he's provided energy and exceptional play off the bench for the majority of his career, the 33-year-old has often struggled to remain healthy.
The Cavs signed Tristan Thompson to a massive contract before the 2015-16 campaign, and the presence of Kevin Love and Timofey Mozgov largely diminished Varejao's role in Cleveland's frontcourt.
As Zach Harper of CBS Sports put it, the Cavaliers improve by trading a body that has essentially just occupied space:
Varejao has been legally dead for three years. https://t.co/62qFQQSxcq— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) February 18, 2016
Josh Lewenberg of TSN 1050 Radio took a nicer approach to breaking down the deal for the Cavaliers:
Frye is an upgrade for Cavs, gives them another shooter. Varejao expendable. He wasn't really in play for Raps because of $8.2M contact— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) February 18, 2016
Looking at the deal from Portland's side, as Jay King of MassLive.com did, the addition of Varejao likely takes David Lee off the table:
Portland scooping Varejao likely eliminates David Lee's value to the Trail Blazers. They can pick up a smaller contract to reach the floor.— Jay King (@ByJayKing) February 18, 2016
Considering the team ran to the NBA Finals after last season without Varejao, there's reason to believe the Cavs can beat the rest of the East again without him in the upcoming playoffs.
Varejao had been a mainstay in Cleveland for 11 seasons prior to being traded, prompting Derek James of ESPN 1500 in Minneapolis to speculate that there will be at least one more brief stint with the Cavaliers for the veteran center:
I feel like there's a 109 percent chance Varejao signs a one-day contract to retire a Cav eventually.— Derek James (@DerekJamesNBA) February 18, 2016
Sports Nation Ohio provided the perfect image to send Varejao on his way out of Cleveland:
While Varejao may shed a tear as he leaves, Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal noted the Cavaliers are ecstatic about adding Frye:
#Cavs always wanted Frye, didn't think they could get him. Even last night thought LAC would make better offer & they needed to move Andy $— Jason Lloyd (@JasonLloydABJ) February 18, 2016
Nate Duncan of The Cauldron also thinks the addition of Frye makes Cleveland's roster scary good:
Kyrie/SG/LeBron/Love/Frye will be absolutely unstoppable. 2 bigs shooting 3s around LeBron postups. The D, OTOH....— Nate Duncan (@NateDuncanNBA) February 18, 2016
The forgotten team in the deal is Orlando. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel noted by trading Frye, along with some additional roster moves after the dust has settled, the Magic could have up to $45 million in cap space this summer.
Perd Hapley of Parks and Recreation fame summed up what all that available money means for the Magic:
Orlando's cap space is the amount of money the Magic will have available to pay players this offseason.— Perd Hapley (@PerdHapleyNBA) February 18, 2016
On a more serious front, TNT's David Aldridge does expect the Magic to be busy this offseason:
Magic almost got Paul Millsap to sign last summer; looking to make a big splash this summer.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) February 18, 2016
Orlando has been in rebuilding mode for four years, since trading Dwight Howard to Los Angeles after the 2011-12 season. The Magic have shown improvement this year, owning a 23-29 record, but losing 16 of their last 20 games has taken a lot of wind from their sails.
The cap space being built by Magic general manager Rob Hennigan does make them interesting to watch this summer, but it only matters if they get someone to bite. That's been the problem lately, as Aldridge noted with Paul Millsap.
The Cavaliers didn't need to make a move to secure their playoff spot, but the franchise is focusing on how it can compete with Toronto in the Eastern Conference and either Golden State or San Antonio in a potential NBA Finals matchup.
Frye fell out of favor in Orlando, splitting time with Aaron Gordon, but he's still shooting 39.7 percent from three-point range. The Cavaliers need more scoring help if they hope to compete with Golden State, so this is a risk worth taking for Cleveland.
Varejao's vital contributions during Cavs superstar LeBron James' first stint with the Cavs allowed him to sign the contract extension in November 2014 in the first place. It didn't make as much sense for Varejao to remain in the fold in light of the aforementioned playoff run, so Griffin showed sound logic by trading him.