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Just The Sports: Anderson Varejao

Just The Sports

Monday, January 28, 2008

Anderson Varejao

Cleveland Cavalier Anderson Varejao nearly became infamous for his contract holdout over the summer that also spilled over into the regular season before the Cavaliers matched a three-year, $17 million contract sheet Varejao was offered by the Charlotte Bobcats. To the untrained eye, it seemed ridiculous for a player who had only averaged 6.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in the season previous to holding out for more money, but Varejao is a very valuable player to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Every season Varejao has had a defensive rating below the league average and an offensive rating well above league average, including this year, and in addition to that, he is a very proficient rebounder in terms of his rebound rate. He may not be a superstar, but he is a very valuable player in his own right so his return should have elevated the Cavaliers' play in some definable way.

On the surface, it would appear that Varejao did make the Cavaliers better when he returned to their line-up. During the twenty-one games Varejao missed, the Cavaliers were outscored by 5.6 points per 100 possessions. With Varejao in uniform for the next twenty-two games, the Cavaliers outscored their opponents by 4.4 points per 100 possessions, which is a 10.0 points per 100 possessions swing in favor of the Cavaliers just because Sideshow Bob's Brazilian doppelganger is playing. Simple enough.

Unfortunately for Varejao the next time he wants to make the case that he deserves more money from the Cavaliers, he will not be able to point to these splits to demonstrate how valuable he is to the team for there are other, more accurate reasons for the Cavaliers' turnaround.

Actually, the Cavaliers were not as bad during those twenty-one games as the statistics suggest. LeBron James missed five of those twenty-one games, thereby transforming an already unimpressive offense into something even more anemic and pedestrian. Once those five games are removed, the Cavaliers were only outscored by 2.2 points per 100 possessions. In addition, the Cavaliers played a much tougher schedule before Varejao showed up to ply his basketball trade. Thirteen of the twenty-one games the Cavaliers played were against opponents who are currently above-.500; in the next twenty-two games, only nine games were against opponents who are currently above-.500. Therefore, the Cavaliers' improvement was less due to Varejao's return than the fact they were playing an inferior brand of foe. It will not be until the Cavaliers play more quality foes with Varejao that we will be able to determine how much of a positive difference Varejao is providing.

Furthermore, while listening to ESPN Radio's production of the Los Angeles Lakers-Cleveland Cavaliers games, I overheard analyst Will Perdue state Varejao's return has reinvigorated his teammate, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, since they are the best of friends and always hang out with each other. While Varejao and Ilgauskas may be great friends and Ilgauskas' mood may have improved, it has not translated to any improvement in his play on the court. His shooting statistics are basically identical before (53.2 TS%/1.06 PSA) and after (53.4 TS%/1.07 PSA) Varejao returned to the roster and the only important statistics for a low-post player that have changed have been his minutes, which have gone down (32.5 minutes per game to 28.2 minutes per game), and also his rebound rate (18.9 RbR to 16.7 RbR), which has also gone down. Those numbers have decreased because of Varejao due to the fact minutes for Varejao have to be taken from somewhere and Varejao's rebounding prowess means there will be fewer rebounding opportunities for Ilgauskas.

Anderson Varejao may be a crowd favorite, but the difference with and without him is not enough to suggest the Cavaliers could not have improved in the same way if he had not suited up for them this season.



  • Or you could watch a last night...and realize that with Varejao they win that game without much trouble. Numbers don't always tell the story. According to your theory that game proves your point, but anyone who follows the Cavs should know they needed Andy last night.

    By Blogger rick@waitingfornextyear, at 9:45 AM  

  • Yeah, but Varejao taking those minutes is huge. It's better for Z to play for shorter periods each game. (Worse for my fantasy team though).

    By Blogger Brave Sir Robin, at 10:01 AM  

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