NBA Trade Rumors: 8 Reasons the Cavs Shouldn't Deal Anderson Varejao
Trade rumors involving Anderson Varejao have run rampant since LeBron James relocated to Miami in the summer of 2010. Such talks were exacerbated after consecutive seasons in which Varejao played in just 31 games or fewer.
Varejao’s health is only one issue. His long-term value is another.
Many doubt the scrappy big man is worth holding onto in the midst of a franchise rebuild. For a young team looking to establish its identity, it would seem prudent to deal the last remaining vestiges of the LeBron era.
With Varejao off to yet another sizzling start, the trade talk will only continue to heat up as the season progresses. His hustle, rebounding and experience could prove instrumental for a fringe contender looking for rebounding help and solid pick-and-roll play. If he can stay healthy and continue his current level of play, one would assume that dealing Varejao could bring in a king’s ransom in return.
Despite the incessant trade talk, the Cavaliers simply cannot deal Anderson Varejao. Here are eight reasons it's a bad idea.
Kyrie Irving is the team’s undisputed superstar, and Dion Waiters may very well prove an adequate second option.
On a team where the average age is under 25, however, Varejao stands head and shoulders above the rest as the team’s invaluable veteran presence.
With Irving, Waiters, Tyler Zeller and Tristan Thompson representing the core of the Cavaliers’ roster moving forward, the team is in good position to develop and mature together in the coming seasons.
In order for the team to play competitive basketball while rebuilding, however, they must have some experienced veterans on the roster who have not only been in the league for some time, but experienced success in it. Along with Daniel Gibson, Varejao is the only remaining member of the franchise's glory years of continuous playoff runs with LeBron James as the star of the show.
After allowing Antawn Jamison to walk in the offseason, Varejao is easily the team’s most experienced player, now in his ninth NBA season. To say the eight-year veteran is indispensable would be an understatement.
Lack of Depth (Bench and Scoring)
Excluding Varejao, the Cavaliers’ only consistent scoring threats are Irving, Waiters,and whoever has the hot hand between Alonzo Gee and Daniel Gibson. Although Irving and Waiters represent one of the league’s best scoring backcourts, the other players on the list are hardly household names.
Gee opened his first NBA season in the D-League, and ‘Boobie’ Gibson is nothing more than a shooter on the offensive end.
Despite pouring in nearly 15 points a game this season, Varejao is not known as a scorer. Through his time playing alongside LeBron and now Kyrie Irving, Andy has made a career as a hustler/pick-and-roll specialist on the offensive end, not a low post threat with an arsenal of refined moves in the paint. That he’s averaging such a high percentage of the team’s points speaks for itself as far as the Cavaliers' limited scoring options are concerned.
Defense Is the Mantra
Whether scoring the ball or not, one thing Varejao for which can always be counted on is playing defense. In the younger stages of his career, he made a name for himself as a nuisance/flopper, disrupting the offensive flow of opposing players such as Rasheed Wallace, Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh.
Although casual NBA commentators might not have taken notice, flopping is hardly the name of Varejao’s defensive game. The lanky Brazilian has learned to utilize his height and quick hands to alter shots and disrupt passing lanes.
While he’ll never have the athleticism to be a shot blocker a la Dwight Howard, nor the bulk to be a shot alterer a la Marc Gasol, Varejao’s scrappiness and rebounding ability make him a viable defensive presence. His tenacity on the offensive glass and disruptiveness on the defensive end have endeared him to head coach Byron Scott, who has stressed defense since day one on the job as Cavs’ head coach.
There’s a reason Varejao was named All-NBA Defensive Second Team in 2009-2010, and it’s not because he simply fell over when ran into by attacking opponents. Any NBA experts who genuinely believe so are flopping in their analysis.
Perhaps the most overlooked and under-appreciated aspect of Varejao’s presence on the Cavaliers’ roster is his contract.
The wild-haired Brazilian is the team’s highest-paid player, even though he’s receiving a salary of "just" $8.4 million in 2012-2013. When you compare Andy’s worth to that of other veteran bigs, you realize that the Cavaliers are getting more bang for their buck than most.
Elton Brand ($18.2 million), Joakim Noah ($11.3 million), DeAndre Jordan ($10.5 million) and Andris Biedrins ($9 million) are all earning more than Varejao this season. With the exception of Noah, there isn’t a convincing argument that any of the rest are more valuable players than Varejao at this point in their careers.
Varejao’s manageable salary is welcome relief for a team desiring cap flexibility. Such a luxury could also be beneficial when the team looks to shed bad contracts at the trade deadline, such as Luke Walton and his inexplicable $6.1 million salary.
Unrealistic Trade Expectations
When backup point guard Ramon Sessions did an admirable job supplementing Kyrie Irving off the bench in 2011-2012, many fans correctly assumed he’d be worth a first round pick at the trade deadline. Surely enough, the Cavs dealt him to the Lakers for what turned out to be their No. 24 overall pick.
That pick resulted in the drafting of potential cornerstone Tyler Zeller. Sessions, meanwhile, has wound up as a backup point guard for the Bobcats.
Why not deal the hardy Varejao to a contender for another draft pick or two? Varejao’s through-the-roof production could bring the Cavaliers a hefty return if he were dealt, right?
Such expectations should be tempered.
Despite what even the most ardent Cavs’ fan may believe, Cleveland wouldn’t get anything more than a low-mid first round pick for Varejao.
Although he’s flirting with 15-15 a game, the team simply wouldn’t get enough in return for what Varejao provides to justify trading their longest tenured player.
With respect to the Sessions trade, Zeller may well prove a valuable building block for the team moving forward, but the Cavs are currently backing up their star point-guard with two career D-leaguers in Donald Sloan and Jeremy Pargo as a consequence. If the team deals Varejao and uses the pick to shore up the wing at the 3 spot, they’d be absent the team’s leading rebounder and best interior defender.
It may very well be a case of a step forward, a step backward for the young Cavaliers.
Deal a Fan Favorite Who Wants to Stay?
When LeBron James bolted for South Beach, every Cavs fan was devastated. How could it be that a local kid could turn his back on the city that had adored him and followed his every move, before he even became a member of the franchise?
To any Cleveland sports fan, James’ departure should’ve hardly come as a surprise. Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome and the entire Cleveland Browns franchise were all local icons who had recently departed for greener pastures, despite the fans’ unconditional love and support.
In Varejao, the team has a B-rate star who is loved for his humble attitude, relentless style of play and down-to-earth persona. In a contemporary sports world of self-serving prima donnas, Varejao’s tenacity is well-appreciated in a town where old-school legends Bob Feller and Jim Brown remain the city’s greatest sports heroes.
Would owner Dan Gilbert really consider dealing the popular Varejao, a player who has thrived with the Cavaliers and never expressed discontent, despite the organization’s tumultuous past couple seasons?
He Can Still Be a Part of the Future (He’s Only 30)
Kyrie Irving’s impressive rookie campaign and Dion Waiters’ seamless transition to the NBA have opened some NBA experts' eyes. If the team’s 2-6 start to the season is any indication, however, those who claimed the team has a ways to go before they have any serious playoff aspirations are correct.
With such a young foundation, it seems as if time is the main deterrent to the team’s eventual return to the promise land.
It’s important to keep in mind that, outside Varejao, Cleveland doesn’t have another player older than 26. Excluding Varejao, the average age amongst the other nine players in Byron Scott’s regular rotation (players averaging more than 20 MPG), is just 22.8 years old.
Some say that Varejao will be “too old” by the time the young Cavaliers mature into a playoff contender once again. Such sentiment is more presumptive than factual.
A glance at his stats shows that Varejao’s play has steadily improved as his career’s progressed. The ‘Brazilian Bomber’ has consistently increased his PPG, RPG and free throw percentage since LeBron left town.
That Varejao’s game is built on hustle instead of athleticism suggests that he won’t deteriorate as quickly as some assume. As he ages, Varejao could likely improve his mid range game much the way Zydrunas Ilgauskas did before him. He’s already assumed a larger role in the Cavaliers offense as an essential complement to Kyrie Irving on the pick-and-roll.
As a team-first player, there’s no reason to believe Varejao wouldn’t be able to diversify his offensive game to fit the team’s needs.
He Has the Coach’s Respect
Along with Alonzo Gee and Daniel Gibson, Varejao was one of just three Cavs players recently cited by head coach Byron Scott as a player whose defensive tenacity was up to standard.
Such accolades should hardly come as a surprise to Cavs fans. Byron Scott may have an atrocious winning percentage as the team’s head coach, but this is much more a reflection of the organization’s youth and inexperience than his ability to mix and match lineups.
As the team takes its lumps while growing into a contender, Varejao’s tenacity and experience will prove an invaluable asset to Scott as he attempts to build a winning mentality amongst his young squad.