Revisiting the Anderson Varejao Trade Discussion

Anderson Varejao's Value Shining Through This Season

In the midst of watching the Cavaliers’ incredible comeback against the Celtics, I was also keeping one eye on Twitter. (On a side note, I don’t know how those of you who tweet during games do it…I always feel like anytime I try to tweet during games, I feel less connected and distracted from the game. So kudos to those more adept to multi-tasking that I am). I noticed something interesting happening on Twitter during this game.

As Anderson Varejao kept pouring his heart and soul into that game, giving every last ounce of effort and want-to he could possibly find inside his seemingly tireless body, Cavs fans on Twitter were making arguments as to why this should be the showcase for trading Varejao.

The irony of people asking for the Cavaliers to trade Varejao as we were all watching the man give the type of effort without which the Cavs certainly would have lost was absolutely not lost on me. Nor was the fact that Varejao, always considered a fan favorite, seems to be the guy many Cavs fans are most eager to have the team trade away.

And I get it. There’s no question he’s the most valuable trade piece the Cavaliers have. He’s at a weird age where he’s probably going to be trailing out of his prime when the Cavaliers hopefully contend again, but yet he’s not so old that contending teams wouldn’t like to have him for a couple years. It’s not that Cavalier fans want to see Varejao go, but at the end of the day, we all just want what is ultimately best for the Cavaliers. If trading Varejao makes the Cavaliers a better team, they probably have to do it.

We’ve touched on this already this season, but it’s worth mentioning again, trading Anderson Varejao is not necessarily the best thing for this franchise, and it’s that lack of absolute clarity that makes this topic such a tough concept to completely wrap one’s mind around. In fact, it’s precisely why fans on each side of the argument are able to make such well-grounded and impassioned arguments for their case. To a certain degree, both sides are equally right.

Of course, then there’s also the issue of fans not really knowing what the reality of Varejao’s price tag is. In theory the NBA trade market is a pure free market system where a player’s worth is established by the market. In theory that’s an absolute truth. You’re always worth whatever the GM willing to give up the most for you says you are. But sometimes GMs have a funny way of moving the market in an upward direction for a player. So while it’s easy to sit here and predict what the market value for Anderson Varejao truly is, none of that matters because it only takes one crazy GM to offer too much for Varejao for this discussion of worth and merit shifts in a very different direction.

But I’m not here to sit on any fences and hem and haw my way through this. No, it is my most earnest opinion that trading Anderson Varejao is just about the worst thing the Cavaliers can do (short of trading Tristan Thompson for Chris Kaman, as Terry Pluto seemed to lightly infer as a remote possibility in his weekend column).

This statement of opinion should be taken with one small grain of salt, or caveat. If a first round pick and/or Tristan Thompson can be discussed even as an implausible trade situation for Chris Kaman, then if the Cavs did indeed get an offer of a first round pick and an under-22 player better than Tristan Thompson, then maybe my opinion shifts. Otherwise, I stand firm that trading Varejao is a mistake.

When thinking about backing up this argument, I considered a lot of methods. I looked a bunch of stats and metrics that show just how valuable Varejao really is to this team. But taking such a rigid approach to defending such an intangible player like Varejao just didn’t feel right. It would be like using math to prove the value of punk rock.

In many ways, punk music truly is like Anderson Varejao’s game. On the surface, it’s not always pretty. It can be visceral and guttural. But in the counter culture of doing things differently and by their own book, punk bands have a certain internal resolute beauty. A purity, if you will, where integrity and standards still mean something. So, too, does Anderson Varejao’s game always find ways to be more than what immediately meets the eyes. There’s a purity in the hustle and energy that he gives, there’s an integrity to the way he plays the game with enthusiasm of a child filtered through the toughness of a grown man.

Dig even deeper, though, and there are certain likely truths that make the thought of giving away Anderson Varejao a chilling prospect. Above all else, the Cavaliers will almost certainly never find a player quite like Varejao again. I can’t say as that I have ever seen an NBA player like him, and I doubt I ever will. Oh, there are better players, but I have never seen a player give so much effort and play the game so damn hard all while existing on a middling team hanging around the #8 spot in the weak Eastern Conference.

That might be the funniest joke of them all. That while LeBron James, Derrick Rose, and Carlos Boozer were all doing their best to give away a huge game between the East’s two best teams, there was Anderson Varejao playing like a madman scrapping and fighting and willing his team to have every last opportunity to comeback and stun the Boston Celtics in Boston. It was a level of inspiration that words just don’t seem to do justice.

That’s what the Cavaliers stand to lose by trading Varejao. And for what? The #26 pick in the draft? Maybe some promising young player who flashes skill but lacks consistency and/or effort? Forget about the fact (and yes, this is a fact) that Varejao will never bring back more value in a trade than he will right now. That’s not an argument for trading him, that’s an argument for how well he’s playing. The truth is that even at his highest value he’s probably not going to offer the return that gives the Cavaliers what they are losing.

Last night, WFNY’s Rick said on Twitter “I can’t think of a legit trade offer from a contender I would take for [Andy].” He’s right. I challenge you to find me a realistic trade offer that a team would actually make for Varejao that the Cavaliers would feel great about accepting. Trading a guy just because his value is peaking is foolish. The words “just because” should never enter the equation. I’m already long on hyperbole here, but Varejao is such a unique and special player to this city, this franchise, and this fan base (not that the fans’ desires should be a consideration…sorry fans), that his value is virtually irreplaceable.

So ok, maybe Varejao will be past his prime when the Cavaliers are back in contention. Who cares? You think he’s going to give any less effort or desire? You think his energy and commitment to the team will be any less? If you do, then you haven’t been paying attention.

I don’t know what Varejao wants. If he wants to leave Cleveland, this whole discussion is moot and the Cavaliers should honor his desires. But I’ve never heard even the slightest rumblings that he’s unhappy being here. He seems to have fantastic on court chemistry with Kyrie Irving and he’s a true leader who can bridge the experience gap between the rookies and the Cavaliers’ last era of contention. What he can offer in leadership, experience, and as a calming presence are almost enough on their own to warrant keeping him. When you add in the heart and soul of this team, trading him makes that much less to me.

In the end, the long term success of the Cleveland Cavaliers is more important to me than anything else in this discussion. I’m sure some will take exception to this article and say I’m playing on emotions to cloud judgment in a business transaction. That’s not the case, though. I’m just trying to find the right words to point out that Anderson Varejao means an awful lot to the Cavaliers, both now and in the immediate future. And if you think some long term prospect drafted at the end of the first round is going to replace Varejao, that’s where I disagree.

Lightning struck once for the Cavaliers when Varejao defied the odds developed into a player who is actually putting up numbers that put him in the All-Star discussion. The odds of lightning striking twice and it happening again are so remote. You have your lightning in the bottle in Varejao, so why not just keep him?


Image Credit: Steve Babineau/NBAE/GettyImages

  • Floydrubino

    so you took the time to sign in on another account to make fun of this. bravo. How pathetic does somone have to be to do this.

  • Cory H

    Totally agree with your assessment.  

  • Cory H

    Andy wanted to leave in the past.  In 2009, Varejao was a restricted free agent who seemed to have very little interest in returning to the Cavaliers. After signing an offer sheet with Charlotte and having it matched by the Cavaliers.  
    The Cavs can’t get too mediocre too fast.  The Cavs became too good too fast after Lebron’s first season.  He never got his running mate.  The Hornets became too good too fast after they landed Paul too.  

     A trade to the Bulls for Asik, Brewer and the Bobcats 2016 pick would be ideal. Trading Andy for to a contender for the right future unprotected pick would be best for the long term outlook for the Cavs for several reason.  1) He’s 10 years older than Irving.  They are going to be ships in the night in their NBA careers, not running mates. 2)They’ll probably finish with the 7th or 8th worst record this year with him.  Their basically .500 against other bad teams and have yet to beat a team with a winning record.  They’ve also played less games than most other teams.  There’s a lot of playoff teams and back to backs on the horizon.  If they deal him they’ll drop to the bottom 5 and that would guarantee them a top 8 pick.  If they come out of the 2012 draft with John Henson, we’re in trouble.  If they can come out with Davis, Barnes, Perry, Gilchrist, Barnes, Lamb, Beal…We’ll actually have a player who can grow with Irving and Thompson. 3) They’ll have more cap flexibility going forward without his contract.  They’ll be able to add other glue guys around a growing core.  4) They can either draft another young player with the draft pick received or trade it away to finish off the squad.  5) Stop being so damn selfish.  What’s best for him? Playing on some 35 win teams for the Cavs or playing out the remainder of his career of a title team. 

  • AkrimTabbouli

    What would you take for AV? I wouldnt want nothing below a lottery pick if we get one i would pull the trigger on the deal.
    How to get it?
    While i agree that his Value might not exactly be worth a high draft pick, but like you said all it takes is a GM to give more than his worth.
    Enter the Nets and Magic.
    The Nets really want Howard they are depserate for him, meanwhile i think Orlando would start to be getting fed up with the situation. Trade AV and Brook Lopez to the Magic, Howard to the Nets, Cleveland gets the Nets first round pick and the Magic’s first round pick and Turks bad contract.
    Any other season no one would deal this trade but the Magic beleive they are going to contend for the playoffs this season so why worry so much about the pick plus they are getting rid of Turks contract and getting a frontcourt tandem that could be really successful.
    The Nets do the deal becuase they are depserate to get Howard and once they do their core of Williams, Brooks and Howard would be in place.
    The only sticking point is Salary matching. We could also take mehmet Okur and trade Antawn Jameison to the Magic. Orlando gets an expiring contract instead of Turks contract, we get a big capable of spreading the floor.

  • Kresh

    i can see his talent in boston