Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cleveland's Struggles With Trading Anderson Varejao

The trading block is a beautiful thing in the mind of a basketball writer. Just remember, once you’re on our trading block, you will not be taken off until you are dealt. At least, that’s the perception. Until Kevin Martin got traded to Oklahoma City, I’ve seen at least 12 different trades involving him. Clippers backup point guard Eric Bledsoe has gain heavy trade momentum, and the Paul Millsap/Al Jefferson combo in Utah have seen themselves thrown into the trade machine frenzy as well Before Kevin Martin, there was Anderson Varejao: The holdover from those good Cleveland teams. Once LeBron departed for Miami, it seemed like the relationship between Varejao and Cleveland was destined to end.

Only, the relationship continued, and continued, and as of right now, Anderson Varejao is still a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Just think: Varejao almost left Cleveland!  From 2007 to now, Varejao dealt with a rocky contract situation (As a RFA, Varejao held out on Cleveland for more money, signed an offer sheet with Charlotte, which Cleveland quickly matched), to success with LeBron James, a really nice contract extension (Six years, 42 million for the big man), the departure of LeBron James, the slow rebuild, and two tough injuries. Through it all, Varejao maintained his underrated status as the “he can’t stay healthy” label crept up next to his name. Even last season, as the big Brazilian looked to have found his way as an key cog, he broke his wrist (Kind of a good thing for Cleveland? This did allow them to plummet into the top four of the lottery). Before breaking his wrist, Varejao was averaging 10.8 points and 11.5 rebounds. In 2009-2010, Varejao was on a similar pace, averaging 9.1 points and 9.7 rebounds before tearing a tendon in his right ankle.

From a strictly rebuilding concept, Cleveland should trade Varejao. The new nucleus of Kyrie Irving (age 20), Tristan Thompson (21), and Dion Waiters (20) are not even close to contending for a championship, and thus, Varejao (30), doesn't have as much value to Cleveland as he does an actual championship contender. Take a second to imagine him in Boston, where he could provide reinforcement to an aging Kevin Garnett in the interior. Plop him in Toronto and suddenly, the Atlantic Division could make the case that it has five of the playoff teams in the East. Send him out West to Denver, and watch the Nuggets take another step forward to becoming an actual contender. The point is: The things Anderson Varejao do allow an offensive post player to worry about just about offense. He blocks shots, he rebounds the ball, and he makes the shots he has to on offense. He isn't a franchise player, but to the right team? Varejao could push a really good team, to an elite level.

Which is why Cleveland can’t trade him.

Because this team is so young, Varejao is Cleveland’s second best player, and could make the claim he’s been their best player. In this young season, Varejao is averaging 15.9 points and 13.7 rebounds, while shooting 60% from the field, according to ESPN. His PER is an absurd 26.25, he’s shooting 82.5% at the rim, and he’s giving Cleveland 3.4 assists per game to boot. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, then have a look at Varejao’s on and off court statistics:

He’s giving Cleveland 15 extra points per 100 possessions on the offensive end, while taking away 7 points on the defensive end. He’s in the same ballpark with Joakim Noah (here) where you just can’t afford to take him off the court. He’s giving Irving a pick and roll partner, as well as a target to throw to in the interior for easy assists. However, he doesn’t help Tristan Thompson much. In fact, Thompson is better when Varejao is out of the game:

My guess would be Thompson’s inability to score (he can’t finish around the rim is his biggest issue, Thompson is shooting 52% at the rim) clashes with Varejao’s overall skill set. The points aren’t a huge concern, but the twenty point drop in field goal percentage is rough. Cleveland will still run both of them because of the rebounding advantage (not a huge drop for Thompson when Andy takes a seat), and the positive plus/minus when they run both at the same time.

The other issue surrounding this dilemma for Cleveland is the return for shipping Varejao out. It’s tough to envision Cleveland getting back full value for the 6-11 big man.  He makes 27 million over the next three seasons (a good contract in my eyes), but are teams like Boston, Denver, and Toronto willing to give up building blocks for just Varejao? Boston would have to throw Avery Bradley and rookie Jared Sullinger into the deal, and Toronto has the big contract to take Varejao on in Jose Calderon (10$ million expiring contract), but would also have to throw in rookie Terrance Ross and/or Ed Davis as well to make it enticing for Cleveland.

Denver is the most intriguing to me. The Nuggets have a ton of players on the roster to throw in the deal. The main deal that sticks out to me? Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, and Jordan Hamilton. Cleveland still has a spot open at small forward, and Gallinari could fill the void. Mozgov could be the gem here for the Cavs. Next to Thompson, Mozgov could be the athletic big man they desire in the interior, and he fits Cleveland’s age range at 26. While Mozgov is a free agent at season’s end, Cleveland has the cap space, and the starting position, to entice and lure Mozgov back. Hamilton is the lottery ticket. In college, Hamilton was a sharpshooter who can double at shooting guard and small forward. In Cleveland, he could learn to mature his game off the bench, and if Gallinari leaves in three seasons, you can thrust him into the starting role.

The Cavaliers are going to tail off at some point (Again, this team is just too young to contend right now), and that’s when the question of Varejao's availability will slowly squeeze itself back into the forefront. We’re just seven games into the season, and maybe Cleveland does breakdown and eventually moves Varejao, but for the foreseeable future, Cleveland shouldn’t pull the trigger.


Anonymous said...

You think DEN would even consider trading Gallo? He's the best player (imo).

Jacob Noble said...

I agree, I can't see DEN parting with Gallo either. Someone needs to get Varejao but then again, maybe having him around will help them win some games and grow their talent. It's the question Cleveland needs to answer.

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