The Cleveland Cavaliers are currently riding back-to-back wins for the first time this season going into their matchup Friday with the Atlanta Hawks. They have done this without their most well rounded player in Anderson Varejao. Despite missing the last four games due to a bruised right knee that he suffered in a home loss against the Toronto Raptors, the Cleveland center is still leading the NBA in rebounding.
Playing in 25 of the first 30 games of the season, Varejao has averaged 14.1 points, 14.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.5 steals, while shooting 47.8 percent from the field and 75.5 percent from the free throw line. Wild Thing is currently fifth in the league in double-doubles with 16 (64 percent of games played) so far. He is having an All-Star season, and upon second returns in the 2013 NBA All-Star balloting, he ranks ninth among frontcourt players with 99,955 votes.
Missing the last four games hasn’t helped with earning him a well-deserved trip to Houston, and recent reports on Friday regarding his status won’t make things better. He will be seeking more treatment this weekend, making him unavailable for Friday’s game against the Hawks and keeping him in Cleveland for the Cavs’ trip to face the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday.
The bruised right knee has been more of a problem than we thought it might have been, especially since he ended up finishing the contest against the Toronto Raptors when the injury occurred on December 18. According to an Associated Press release, Varejao’s injury occurred in a place that “is tender and needs more time to heal.”
Rookie center Tyler Zeller has started in place of Varejao, but has looked lethargic and lost while on defense. Although he scored a season-high 20 points against the Boston Celtics on December 19, he hasn’t been able to combat opposing bigs. This has left the paint exposed, as the Cavaliers have allowed opponents to average 41 points in the paint over the four games that Varejao has missed.
Although Zeller has struggled while replacing Varejao, power forward Tristan Thompson has made up for his faults. He is doing the best he can to make up for Andy’s missed time, especially on the defensive side. He’s averaged 12.8 boards over the last four games, as well as tallying four straight double-double performances. He has averaged 13 points in that same span, often seen following through with missed shot attempts as Andy would.
Many have been on Thompson’s case this season, but you can’t knock on what he has been able to do on both sides of the ball lately. He’s doing exactly what General Manager Chris Grant brought him in to do and more, becoming a force on the offensive side of things. He has shot 50 percent from the field, and the Cavaliers have kept opponents to an average 93 points. They are allowing opponents to average 99.2 points against them on the season, so things have seen an improvement on the defensive side even without Varejao in the lineup.