Where the Wild Things Went
Anderson Varejao has always been a Cleveland fan favorite. Since he came to Cleveland on a draft night trade back in 2004 the fan base has absolutely fallen in love with the Brazilian big man. An integral part of the 2008-2009 66-16 Cavs team, he and Mo Williams are the only members of that team left that aren’t named LeBron. After LeBron left in 2010 Andy chose to stay, his loyalty was rewarded, and he earned himself a 6 year, $48,000,000 contract. At the time of signing this deal wasn’t terrible, the Cavs were still rebuilding, Andy was selling tickets and had been an integral part of the franchise. LeBron returning, however, has changed things; Andy’s contract is one of, if not the, worst contracts in the league (well nothing will be worse than Joe Johnson’s but Andy’s is close) and while he is a fan favorite, clearly Gilbert is considering all of his options.
Andy has seen his minutes increase under Lue. After going on a stretch where he recorded seven DNP – Coaches Decision in ten games Andy has seen increased minutes over the past three games. Earning 27, 10 and 19 minutes respectively Varejao has seen his role change from back in the glory days. Once upon a time Andy and Z formed a spurs-esque “Twin Towers” front court, not a ton of shooting but would bully the opponent’s frontcourt into submission. However the new age Cavs need a stretch four, and Andy has hit a total of three 3 point shots in his career and with Tristian Thompson seeing more time at the 5, Varejao has instead taken up Thompsons role as an energizer off the bench, and after a 10-rebound, three-assist, two-block, and two-steal game in 27 minutes, clearly he’s suited to this role.
Tyronn Lue mentioned at the start of his tenure that he would like to run a 10 man roster, including Richard Jefferson, Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao. Initially there were questions on how true this statement would be, as most teams run 9 rotation players and Varejao had not played real minutes for almost a year, yet after Sunday’s game against the Pelicans those doubts seemed to fade away. According to Lue “We need Andy. The way he played tonight, I got to step up and be able find him some minutes somewhere.”
These newfound minutes could, however, be coming from somewhere else. While there is plenty reason to believe that Andy is getting minutes do to hard work during practice, and that he is a critical new part of Lue’s system, Brian Windhorst in an interview with ESPN Cleveland 850 stated that the Cavs are currently putting out feelers to gauge interest in Varejao and his uniquely difficult contract. According to Windhorst the results thus far have been generally negative, likely due to his history with injury and limited court exposure. This increase in minutes may be the result of Lue being told to advertise Varejao as a viable asset, something the Cavs have very few of.
Varejao is making a comeback, something that should be a real surprise to Cavs fans. He was a starting 4-5 for the Cavs for years, and is a clearly talented player. The real question is why? Is he making a comeback because Lue believes in him, or because David Griffith said he had to? The trade deadline is only two days away, so we’ll see soon enough.