December 15th marked an important date in the NBA calendar. On that day, most players signed in the offseason became eligible to be traded. Because of this, teams across the league now have much more flexibility to make trades that can restructure their roster whether to win now or build for the future. Given Chris Grant’s history, one can expect that the Cavaliers will be active in trade talks, most likely looking for an upgrade at the small forward position to help the team reach the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference. One name that has begun to pop up in trade rumors, as has been the habit the last four seasons, is Cavaliers big man Anderson Varejao. The question is whether or not the Cavaliers would be better off both this season and in the future by dealing the Brazilian big man. Today, we take a look at whether or not the Cavaliers should keep Varejao in the fold, both this season and beyond.
Reasons for Keeping Anderson Varejao
He is irreplaceable on the court. Are there better big men in the NBA than Anderson Varejao? Absolutely. Are there many who combine his energy and skill with a willingness to come off the bench for the good of the team? Absolutely not. Varejao’s effort on defense and ability to crash the board help him make an immediate impact when he enters the game. His much improved jumper also helps create much-needed space for an offense that struggles to find any. On nights when Andrew Bynum is struggling, the Cavaliers have a top-flight backup who can finish games. The Cavaliers have also been able to keep Bynum and Varejao healthy by splitting the minutes at the center position between the two. Along with Tristan Thompson, Varejao and Bynum give the Cavaliers a trio of big men that few teams can match up against.
His leadership and intangibles. It has been well established that Varejao is not the kind of person to speak up in the locker room and put the younger members of the team in their place when needed. However, he does an excellent job of leading by example. His effort and energy each game is contagious and he undoubtedly has the respect of players such as Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, and Dion Waiters, as well as Head Coach Mike Brown. A team can have too many young players, and dealing away one of the most respected veterans on the roster for more youth could lead to a locker room lacking in veteran presence, if that isn’t the case already.
He is worth more to the Cavaliers than anyone else. At this point in his career it is unlikely that Cavaliers would ever get fair value for Varejao in a trade, mostly due to his age and injury history. Unless a trade almost assuredly makes the team better either now or in the near future, the Cavaliers may be better off hanging on to Varejao for the duration of his contract.
Reasons for Trading Anderson Varejao
He is 31 years old. This makes Varejao the oldest player on the Cavaliers as he is 13 months older than Jarrett Jack. Meanwhile the Cavaliers have an average age of just over 24 years, making them the second youngest team in the NBA. Because of the age difference between him and other core players, there is very little doubt that Varejao will be in decline as the rest of the core begins to peak. In fact, one could make the argument that his decline has already begun. While still a very good player, Varejao is not quite the same defender he used to be and seems to have lost a bit of quickness this year. A player like Varejao, with his hustle being his greatest attribute, could decline very quickly. While this step back in play may only be due to the layoff from his quadriceps injury and subsequent blood clots, which in itself leads us to another issue.
His injury history. Over the last three seasons prior to this one, Varejao has played a combined 81 games, or just about one season’s worth. While none of the injuries are the chronic kind, it’s very hard to deny that Varejao has become injury prone. As he gets older, it’s unlikely that this will get any better. The last few years, Varejao’s play has improved as the season has gone on, making many Cavalier fans hesitant to trade him. Unfortunately each of those seasons have ended in injury and fans wishing the Cavaliers had gotten value for Varejao when they had the chance. With his improved play lately, fans are once again debating the pros and cons of trading him, but his pair of knee bumps Saturday in Orlando should serve as a reminder that it is unwise to count on Varejao for a full season at this point.
Conclusion: The Cavaliers have a big decision coming. Do they stick with their longest-tenured player (in his tenth season with the team!) and trust that he will be able to continue his high level of play in helping them reach the playoffs this season, or do they trade Anderson Varejao for the chance to help the team both now and long after the fan favorite has retired? There is no right or wrong answer to this question for anyone who doesn’t have access to a crystal ball. Hopefully, whatever the team decides will turn out for the best for both the team and the player admired by so many fans.