Cleveland Cavaliers Make Huge Mistake By Re-Signing Anderson Varejao

Brad Frank@brfrank9Correspondent IJuly 10, 2009

ORLANDO, FL - MAY 30:  Anderson Varejao #17 of the Cleveland Cavaliers handles the ball against Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2009 Playoffs at Amway Arena on May 30, 2009 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Cleveland Cavaliers re-signed forward Anderson Varejao on Wednesday, agreeing to a six-year contract worth as much as $50 million.

Varejao, a five-year veteran, played in 81 games last season and averaged 8.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 28.5 minutes per game.

He posted career highs in field goal percentage, free throw percentage, points, rebounds, assists, and blocks, largely due to a career high in minutes and games started.

But Varejao is not as valuable as the Cavaliers believe he is.

The coaching staff and his teammates exaggerate the impact of his defensive energy and hustle, while they ignore his lack of an offensive arsenal and shot-blocking ability.

As soon as Varejao announced his intention to opt out of the last year of his contract July 1, it was quite obvious the Cavaliers would end up overpaying him if they were going to re-sign him.

Varejao will be paid $7 million per season for the next six seasons, a spending fiasco by a team on the brink of NBA Finals contention.

Notice that none of the teams around the league showed strong interest in signing Varejao.

Dallas was reported to have contacted Varejao, a rumor he denied. Memphis was a possibility. But it's not like the Cavaliers engaged in a bidding war to sign Varejao.

You would have thought Cavaliers GM Danny Ferry and the front office would have seen the writing on the wall.

The bottom line is Varejao is nothing more than a role player who is valued by only the organization for which he plays.

The following categories are probably the most important statistical measures of production for a power forward.

Varejao ranked 154th in the league last season in points per 48 minutes. This conceivably means 30 starting lineups could be filled based on the NBA's most proficient scorers, and Varejao wouldn't be included in them. In other words, Varejao would be the fourth best bench player in the NBA if teams chose the best scorers.

He ranked 35th among big men last season in rebounds per 48 minutes. This means more than half of the starting big men in the league rank higher than Varejao. Many of them were free agents at the start of this offseason. None of them, however, were pursued by the Cavaliers.

Presumably the Cavaliers are finished with offseason activity since they have no more cap space to spare, unless a possible trade follows through.

Among power forwards, five of the league's 10 best rebounders per 48 minutes last season were free agents this offseason. (David Lee, Chris Andersen, Paul Millsap, Leon Powe, and Lamar Odom.) Yet, none of them were pursued by the Cavaliers in free agency.

Varejao ranked 41st last season in blocks per 48 minutes. Again, there were free agents who performed better in this category than Varejao.

Seven players entering free agency this offseason are listed below, accompanied by the most appropriate statistics to compare power forwards. They were seven of the most viable candidates to fill Cleveland's need at power forward. The first four have signed new contracts, while the last three are still free agents, as of Friday. Statistics not listed in parentheses are averages per 48 minutes played.

Anderson Varejao, Cavaliers:  14.4 points, 12.1 rebounds, 1.37 blocks, 5.0 fouls (53.2 FG%, 61.6 FT%)

Chris Anderson, Nuggets:  14.2 points, 14.5 rebounds, 5.75 blocks, 5.7 fouls (54.8 FG%, 71.8 FT%)

Rasheed Wallace, Pistons: 18.0 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.94 blocks, 4.5 fouls (41.9 FG%, 77.2 FT%)

Charlie Villanueva, Bucks:  29.0 points, 11.9 rebounds, 1.28 blocks, 5.8 fouls (44.7 FG%, 83.8 FT%)

Leon Powe, Celtics:  21.0 points, 13.5 rebounds, 1.49 blocks, 7.5 fouls (52.4 FG%, 68.9 FT%)

David Lee, Knicks:  22.0 points, 16.2 rebounds, 0.37 blocks, 4.4 fouls (54.9 FG%, 75.9 FT%)

Paul Millsap, Jazz:  21.5 points, 13.7 rebounds, 1.53 blocks, 6.0 fouls (53.4 FG%, 69.9 FT%)

After comparison, Lee and Millsap appeared to be the most logical choices for Cleveland. But the Cavaliers chose not to actively pursue any of these players and instead offered a long-term deal to Varejao. 

The problem isn't necessarily Varejao, but he isn't the solution.

The Cavaliers aren't getting to the NBA Finals with Varejao starting at power forward.

The Cavaliers' inactivity is a problem.

Other teams got better this offseason, while the Cavaliers faded from championship contention as a result of a lackluster offseason.

Why isn't David Lee a Cavalier by now?

How is the Cavaliers' front office not willing to sign Lee to the mid-level exception only to give up one team block per game?

Compare him and Varejao above. I'm stunned the Cavaliers didn't act on this. Cleveland could have had Lee for three to four years for half as much in guaranteed money as Varejao will receive.

I'm not disrespecting Varejao in any way, but he's not the type of player who brings the Cavaliers to the next level.

Now, Cavaliers fans must sit and wait until next June, as the front office appears to be content with the current roster.

Perhaps many of those fans will consider this offseason the "Summer That Could Have Been." Then, probably none of them will be surprised when this summer is called the "Summer That Made LeBron Leave."


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