It cannot be stressed enough how incredible Anderson Varejao has played at the center position. His ferocious play when attacking the boards and an 18-foot shot that is becoming a staple of his offense has caught the eye of the NBA through the first 18 games of the season. All teams, analysts, coaches, journalists, players and fans can do is watch Andy’s stock skyrocket, as he is becoming one of the most desired pieces in the league. With his insane performance over a stretch of nine games, in which he has averaged 17.7 rebounds and 16 points, he is finally receiving the attention that he has fought hard for over his nine seasons with the Cavs.
His stat lines are a coach’s dream, and have even led Byron Scott to deem Wild Thing as the best center in the Eastern Conference, if not the NBA. The riddance of the center as an official position on the 2012-13 All-Star ballot has some worried that the well-deserving Varejao may not earn a trip to Houston, but NBA experts know that Andy merits the honor and should be playing in the game this season.
Trade talks have flourished from his decorated success, and the one team that sticks out the most is the Oklahoma City Thunder. With the Thunder trading away star bench player James Harden to the Rockets and acquiring young pieces such as rookie Jeremy Lamb, the reigning Western Conference champs may not be looking to whisk away youthful talent along with center Kendrick Perkins for Varejao. Andy would definitely improve the defensive efforts for Oklahoma City and, with his shooting production being at an all-time high, he would benefit in the more pass friendly offense that the Thunder are running this season.
Thunderous Intentions Editor Andrew Kennedy gave his take on the Varejao-Oklahoma City Thunder situation here. With Andy’s value increasing each time he takes the court, it will be hard for any team to offer up enough to steal the rebounding machine away from Cleveland. If the Cavaliers can find an affordable way to keep him around for good, we could see his jersey in the rafters some day.
The problem with this trade is that Perkins has digressed as a player ever since joining the Thunder. Although he is shooting at a fairly high percentage this season (58.0 percent), the Thunder would benefit more with the high-energy Varejao leading the charge on the boards. Perkins has only been able to average 5.0 rebounds in the 18 games that he has started, so with Varejao you’d give second-chance opportunities to players like Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin. You know Russell Westbrook would love that as well. Right now the Cavaliers are ranked second in the NBA in extra scoring chances per game with 4.3, and Varejao is a big reason why Cleveland is tops in the league in that category.
Varejao is also a big reason the Cavaliers are soaring upward in particular rebounding categories this year. His average of 15.4 rebounds and 6.2 offensive boards leads the NBA right now, and it looks as if he may remain there for a while. He has also managed a double-double in the nine aforementioned games, making it the longest streak of his career and two away from the Wine and Gold record. His PER of 24.29, good for ninth in the NBA, has also led Grantland writer Zach Lowe to begin a tweeting series called “your daily Anderson Varejao is Awesome Update.” His most recent one, and probably one of his most shocking statistics this season, is that he has more offensive boards (105) than missed shots (96).
But let’s look away from the individual accolades for a quick moment and observe what Andy has brought to the team as a whole. The Cavs currently have the best mark in the league in offensive rebounds (9.3) and total rebounds (38.8) allowed per game, meaning that Varejao supplies the force behind the team to limit second-chance shots while dominating the opponent’s side of the court as well. The collective 14.2 offensive rebounds per game have put the Cavaliers at second in the league.
You can see by where the Cavaliers rank among rebounding categories just how valuable and important of a piece Varejao is to a team. Despite a 4-14 record, he has kept the team competitive. You can’t ask for more from the hopeful All-Star.