Trading Anderson Varejao Is a Tricky Proposal

Anderson Varejao on Media Day

Anderson Varejao on Media Day

On Tuesday, rumors began to spreadabout the Cavaliers asking around about trade interest for Anderson Varejao. There’s no indication the Cavaliers have any trade offers, nor is there any indication that they even want to trade Varejao. Just some empty rumors about the Cavaliers keeping their options open.

Cavs GM Chris Grant seems to be the kind of GM who likes talking to other teams and keeping a firm finger on the pulse of the trade market. As well he should. It’s important to know what kind of interest there is, not just for Varejao and other trade targets such as Sessions and Jamison, but for every player on the roster. The only way to make a fully informed plan on how to best rebuild this franchise is to know the value of the assets you hold.

But the rumor did raise an interesting and very difficult question. If there is strong interest in Varejao, would the Cavaliers be wise to trade him?

There are several different schools of thought on this issue. On the one hand, the Cavaliers have a serious lack of true NBA centers. Heck, even Varejao isn’t really a center. The Cavaliers are so short on centers they just play Varejao there due to a lack of other options. They obviously hope Semih Erden becomes a serviceable center, but he’s never going to be a franchise center that makes it ok to just get rid of Andy.

There’s no indication help is on the way, either. Just look at Scott’s last draft big board. The only center mentioned is UConn’s Andre Drummond. If the Cavaliers knew they could get the top pick again, maybe this would be an acceptable route. But you have to assume as the only potential All-Star caliber C in the draft that he will go in the top 3 picks. It’s tough to trade Andy with no guarantee of a top 3 pick. Beyond Drummond, you’re looking at players like Illinois’s Meyers Leonard and Florida’s Patric Young as the next centers on the board.

You could also argue that the Cavaliers are doing themselves a disservice putting themselves in position to draft a center when they so desperately need an upgrade in scoring and creating on the wings. SG/SF is such an important need for the Cavaliers, particularly someone to compliment Kyrie Irving, that keeping a proven quality center like Varejao might be warranted.

Another line of thinking says that Varejao’s trade value is as high as it will ever be. The combination of him being in his prime, having a decent contract, and playing for a bad team make him a prime trade target for other contending teams looking for the kind of intangibles Andy has proven he can provide on a Championship caliber team. Furthermore, some feel Andy will be too old by the time the Cavaliers are ready to contend anyway.

At 29 years old, Varejao is hitting the peak of his prime. There’s no question his production will begin to decline before too long. The question for the Cavaliers is how far away are they from contending? If we use the poster child Thunder as an example of best case scenario for building, they drafted Kevin Durant and acquired Jeff Green in 2007 and went 20-62. The next year they drafted Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka (who didn’t play that year) and went 23-59. The following year they drafted James Harden and Ibaka made his debut and the team made the leap to 50-32.

With Irving and Tristan Thompson in place this year, the Cavaliers are in year one of that rebuilding phase. If they are fortunate enough to have a high lottery pick and nail that pick as well, it would be similar to the Westbrook year. Then the following year they need to add another quality player or two in the draft to be ready for that next step. In a perfect world, that puts the Cavaliers in position to begin hoping to be a playoff team in 2013-14. Varejao would be 31 years old. If it takes a few more years for teams to go from playoff team to championship contender, Varejao would be 33-34 years old by the time the Cavaliers are fighting for a Championship. Remember, this is only best case scenario in which everything works according to plan. But in this situation, Varejao would indeed be hitting the tail end of his career.

If this is the Cavaliers’ line of thinking, then perhaps the setback in losing Varejao’s impact wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen to the Cavaliers. It could set them up to acquire good lottery picks in the next couple drafts where they could continue to add quality young talent to the team.

Ultimately, the decision may rest in what the return for Varejao is. The problem with trading him to a contender is that contender’s don’t have good 1st round picks to trade. If you look at the teams who have extra first round picks in 2012 to spare, you have the Bulls (who have the Bobcats’ pick, top 14 protected), the Celtics (who have the Clippers pick, top 10 protected), the Lakers (who have the Mavericks pick, top 20 protected), the Timberwolves (who have Utah’s pick, lottery protected), the Nets (who have the Rockets’ pick, top 14 protected), the Hornets (who have the Timberwolves’ pick, unprotected), the Rockets (who have the Knicks’ pick, top 5 protected), and the Jazz (who have the Warriors’ pick, top 7 protected).

The Cavaliers are simply not going to (or at least are extremely unlikely to) get a top 10 pick for Varejao. Which isn’t to say there isn’t quality outside the top 10, but it’s much harder to get a player back who will mean as much to the Cavaliers as Varejao does.

And therein lies the problem. Varejao is such an important player to Cleveland. He means everything to this team. He provides defense, rebounding, hustle, leadership….all the intangibles you could want in a player. He has developed a nice rapport with Kyrie Irving on the court. He’s an absolute fan favorite. If the Cavaliers could get a pick they felt confident would be a top 15 pick in this year’s deep draft, it would be tough to turn down. But realistically, I’m not sure that’s going to happen.

Even if Anderson Varejao is on this team in a few years and the team is fortunate enough to be back into playoff contention, there’s still value in the player at an older age. Playoff teams need tough veteran leaders. You typically can’t build just with youth. You need the glue, the veterans who provide leadership and a calming presence. Varejao has been here when the Cavaliers were an elite team. He has plenty to offer the Cavaliers in the future years no matter what the team’s circumstance may be.

Trading Anderson Varejao wouldn’t be an easy decision, and it’s decisions like these we should all be glad we don’t have to make. I don’t know what the demand for Varejao is. Teams aren’t going to give up top draft picks or even really good young players for a player who brings more intangibles than box score stuffing. But the Cavaliers’ front office has to always be cognizant of what is best for rebuilding this team. If trading Varejao were to yield pieces the Cavaliers felt would benefit the team strongly in the future, they have to consider it.

The last thing the Cavaliers need to do, however, is trade Varejao “just because”. Rebuilding is a fine art and it’s not all about young talent and draft picks. You have to build with veteran leaders as well. The Cavaliers don’t have very many players who can provide that role going forward. Jamison and Parker won’t be in Cleveland for long. Daniel Gibson could be one such guy, but he doesn’t make the impact on the organization that Anderson Varejao does. I could talk myself into either position on whether or not to trade Varejao. But deep down, as long as Varejao wants to be in Cleveland and is willing to accept that veteran leadership role while the team rebuilds, then I feel it makes the most sense for Cleveland to hang on to him.


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  • Anonymous

    I agree.  If we trade Jamison and Parker “just because,” then I wouldn’t care.  But, we need to make sure we get good value for AV.  There’s a good chance though that as the season progresses we will be able to find a team that loses their defensive-5 and needs one in order to contend (willing to give up young players + picks for the chance now).

    It’s why I like the idea of trading Sessions to OKC for Reggie Jackson + their 1st rounder (they just lost Maynor for the year).  He is a rookie and isn’t as good as Sessions now, but he has a higher ceiling and we get an extra pick to utilize too.   OKC might consider it because they need a more refined talent to guide their 2nd unit if they want to win a championship.

  • Tyler


    Keep Varejao unless they make us an offer we can’t refuse.  (2012 lottery pick)

  • Shamrock

    Even if some team wants Parker or Jamison you won’t get much in return. Face it both will probably be here until the end of the year. As far as Sessions to OKC it makes sense but I seriously doubt they part with a first round pick too.

    Love Varejao’s contribution the guy just plays but sometimes you have to give to get. Varejao, Sessions or maybe Gibson are the only tradable assets I can see.

  • Sans Varejao, who else do we have that’s even approaching his energy/size?  We need to keep him unless its an offer too good to be true.

  • Gren

    I doubt that to be honest. I can see the Cavs settling for 2nd rounders for both of them. However all it takes is a good 4 to go down on a good team and Jamison’s value skyrockets for that team.

  • I think the better question is not “who do we have”, but “who can we get”? That’s what worries me and why I lean toward keeping Varejao. It’s not about this year. I don’t care about a shortage of centers this season. But there needs to be a plan to acquire one in the future. And that plan cannot sacrifice the team’s ability to upgrade on the wings. 

  • Ezzie Goldish

    When is AV signed through? If it’s not well past the next two years, then trading him now will net a much bigger return.

  • He’s signed through 2014-15. His contract also has a 5% trade kicker (not that it would scare anyone away).

  • Anonymous

    I don’t want much in return for Parker or Jamison though.   I want to give our young bigs more minutes and time with Irving (Jamison blocking) and I just am sick of watching Parker.

  • I guess it depends on what kind of time-table that the Cavs are thinking about.  If they think they are 1-2 years off from serious contention (my guess) then maybe it makes sense to drop Andy while his stock value is high enough to either net a major pick or do something else.

    But, we need a big.  Our opponents are scoring too well right now and there can only be a few major reasons why.  When your opponents hit 69% of their shots, you know that they are scoring inside.  Which means we are letting too much go on in the paint.

  • I think that’s why this is a tricky decision. The logic in trading him really depends a lot on far away you believe the Cavaliers are. And for the Cavs, they better not be wrong about that either way.

  • Harv 21

    “Ultimately, the decision may rest in what the return for Varejao is. The problem with trading him to a contender is that contender’s don’t have good 1st round picks to trade.” 

    That’s exactly it. On the other hand a lower first rounder in the upcoming deep draft might be more valuable than usual. And while Tom Reed wrote today about the presumed role-modeling benefits Andy provides for Tristan with his consistent effort, Andy’s on-court intensity had no apparent impact on JJ and won’t necessarily benefit a dullard like Samardo. On the other hand  Andy can assist the development of a fundamentally sound team just by rotating on defense and as a target for Kyrie … Am I ambivalent about moving him this year? Yes and no.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Got it. That’s right in between… their first real “contend for something big” year would be his last year. So then yes, hold onto him unless you’re getting something really good back.

    What would be interesting is if they trade him to teams for unprotected first rounders in 2013 or 2014 instead of this coming year. 

  • OmegaKing

    Am I wrong, or does the analysis of potential trade partners basically eliminate the possiblilty of a 3 or 4 team trade?  It seems like that’s our best bet to unload people and pick up picks where everyone gets the cap relief/help/picks they want.  Ferry was really good at structuring them, so I hope Grant is as well.

  • That’s a great point. I think we as fans tend to forget about multiple team trades. Tricky to figure out who might be involved and what the payout would be for that third/fourth team.

  • baclap

    I agree with you and it seems like everyone else is leaning in that direction as well. Of all our guys with potential trade value Varejao would be the hardest to see go IMO. As for Sessions to OKC that seems reasonable given the points you’ve made, but Jackson + a first rounder could be a bit too much in their eyes. Ultimately I gotta believe Sessions will be gone, it will be interesting to see how much value we get for him.

  • OmegaKing

    I totally agree – it would be impossible to project the participants in a multi-team trade.  That said, all hope is not lost, and with the right counterparties, the Cavs may be able to get the lottery picks they want.  It will likely just depend on how much $$ Gilbert is willing to take on to make that happen.

  • CBI

    Also, don’t forget about the Cav’s willingness to take on
    bad contracts.  Mix in Andy and some
    salary cap relief, and you might be able to shake one of those top 10 picks

  • CBI

    Oops, OmegaKing, you already mentioned that.  I really need to read comments all the way though before commenting.

  • Josh

    This draft has the most center talent in recent memory. Sure, Drummond is the only sure fire all-star, but why does that matter? Varejao is not an all-star, this is the only year he’s been anywhere even near all-star level, and he certainly won’t be an all-star when the Cavs are ready to compete. So why does whoever we draft have to be an all-star?

    I certainly agree you don’t give Varejao away, but if you can get a mid first to semi late first round pick and/or young talent back, you do it in a heartbeat. Not only do you have a chance to draft a younger replacement with a higher ceiling (and admittedly lower floor), you also make yourself worse the next two years for higher picks, plus the one thing you didn’t mention, create a lot of cap space. That space can be used to lock up the young guys in a few years or sign a young big man such as Omar Asek to replace Varejao.

    Just think if we could somehow land a lottery pick for Varejao, then win a top three pick with one of our picks. If we could somehow come away with Drummond and Kidd-Gilchrist we would have the best defense in the league in a few years. Are you listening, God, I’m not asking for much!

  • Anonymous

    “If we could somehow come away with Drummond and Kidd-Gilchrist”

    just copying this line in case it helps it magically happen.  why not right?

  • Anonymous

    while he’s still a ways from 100%, the Cavs (and Boston) are really high on Semih.  if he can continue to progress as we get closer to the deadline, and we get a valuable offer for Andy, then it seems Chris Grant’s decision will be easier to be made.  I can see Andy in a Laker uniform for one of their 1st rounders, Caracter, and some cash. 

  • Keith McGlothin

    It appears the Cav’s are more interested in moving Varejao, than other teams inquiring about his availability. The NBA is no longer Center dominant, in fact, its strongest at Power Forward, so to hear people say he undersized for a Center, Hickson played there half the season last year, what exactly is he? An inbe-tweener? Varejao is not a defensive stopper, he isn’t an on ball defender, excels more in help defense. Through 9 games, he’s been abused in the post, I guess its safe to assume, James made him better, or appear to be, either way, he got him paid.

    Varejao’s greatest value, is on a very good team, in which he is the worse player on the floor. You aren’t going to him, or through him down the stretch. He doesn’t finish strong at the rim, and is about 52% from FT, so what exactly is his value on the floor at the end of games? Set high screens, make a few hustle plays? Varejao’s contract has no value, you don’t overpay role-players, regardless of marketing possibilities, or hustle factor. 

    If the Cav’s could get out of his contract, or do it all over again, I dare say they don’t do things differently. He is a 7 and 7 guy for his career, if anyone isn’t going to improve, or raise his ceiling, its him, a healthy Davis would have been easier to to trade, you’ll see his impact in New York, once he suits up. 

    I know the owners benefited from the lockout, and proceeded to sign players to even more questionable contracts. Varejao is scheduled to make $7,700,000 (prorated) this year, and $17,500,000 over the next 2 years, with a team option for $9,800,000 in 2014-15, that should have already been declined, before the ink dried. He’s 7 years in, having by far his best year of his career, and he’s making no impact, take into account, in what hes given up on the other end, where is the return on investment? 

    You don’t overpay for intangibles, that offsets the balance in the locker-room. Varejao was a part of the James regime, as was Mo Williams. He was never a core piece, or should have been considered one. You look at the Cav’s front court, and you have no low post scoring. You trade the one player, in Hickson, who had upside, and the highest ceiling, because you didn’t want to pay him, when money should’t, or hasn’t been an option. He surely makes the Cav’s a better team, than Varejao, or Casspi would, and he’s only 23. 

    Varegao would not garner a top 10-15 pick, he isn’t worth it. I would think teams would have more interest in Samuels, he’s more physical around the basket, and has upside. Clearly the Cav’s intent, are to move Varejao. Erden was intriguing in Boston, but he was also of a product of who he was surrounded by. 

    If the Cav’s want to raise the potential trade value of Varejao, bring him off the bench, showcase him on the floor vs opposing 2nd units. His numbers may be slightly better, he will appear more effective, and he should build confidence. He actually stated the season, as if he was an offensive option. The Cav’s would have been better served having Williams, Jamison, and Varejao coming off the bench last year. All would have had more success, and more efficient play, opposing 2nd units, which if moved, all would have been doing in new places. Williams is coming off the bench currently in Los Angeles. 

    I will be the first to admit, I didn’t like the pick of Thompson at #4, it was a reach, and at that particular spot, you want immediate impact. He’s growing on me, I’d rather see him more with the first unit, and on the floor at the end of games. Like Varejao, he seems to have a motor, that won’t quit, and I trust him to make a play, at either end of the floor, at the end of a game. 

    I’m anxious to see what changes, and or adjustments coach Scott makes, 15-20 games in,  

    For all things Cleveland Cavaliers, and NBA basketball, you can follow me on twitter @CLECavsOutsider or on

  • Anonymous

    ok, so you said:
    NBA teams don’t care about centers anymore.
    Hickson and Samuels would help the Cavs more than AV.
    Baron Davis’ contract would be easier to trade than AV’s.
    AV’s contract is not team-friendly at all.
    if we do want to trade AV, we should bench him to ‘up’ his value.

    yeah, good luck having your personal advertisement get you more twitter followers

  • He also thinks Sessions is better than Irving. He was arguing it with some people on Twitter yesterday. 

  • Anonymous

    At least Twitter has a character limit. Props to mgbode for actually reading a comment that long to pull the goofy stuff that he had to say out of it.

  • I guess some people look at box scores and don’t watch the games.  AV changes plays because of his defense.  Aggravates some of the people to the point they play badly.  All you have to do to see AV’s value is look at how the Cavs played when he started last year compared to how they played without him.  Didn’t they set a loss record after he was injured?  Weren’t they close to .500 with him?  JJ played NO defense and was kind of spotty on offense.  They got good value for him in the trade for what he did, Casspi and a protected #1.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks.  I basically just put the topic sentence from each paragraph there.  I think the guy is actually a comedian and trying to make us laugh.  If so, then well done as I did laugh a few times reading it 🙂

    And Andrew, I am not surprised.  That seems to fall in line with what is here.

  • Jamesbc85

    I think it would depend on the contract, though. The Cavs are setting themselves up to have a lot of cap space, so I don’t think they would want to mess with that too much. But if they can take on a guy with a bad contract through next year, I’m for it. Beyond that, I’m not so sure.

  • steve-o

    AV was lost due to injury last season, and we went on to set the NBA record for consecutive losses. I’d want the unprotected pick from the Twolves in a multi-team deal before I’d consider going back to that again. Granted, that streak wasn’t all due to losing Andy, but it did help demonstrate his value. This season could get ugly in a hurry without AV, so it’s doubtful he’s moved any time soon.

  • baclap

    I wanted to see Hickson succeed but it’s just not happening. This “one player with upside” talk is bogus. Good luck to JJ but I don’t exactly miss him.

  • pihc

    One area people continually forget is the type of Offense B Scott is running and Andy seems to flourish in it.    Maybe not the amount of points his hit, but on how he moves w/o the ball, passes for a big man and is so very capable in the high/low flare in the Princeton O.    Those type of bigs are extremely difficult to find right now.

  • Keith McGlothin

    HIckson played center half the season, it has nothing to do with the box score, varejao is a 7 and 7 guy, at his BEST!! 7 years in, I didn’t need to watch Toronto abuse him ion the post, or Utah, or the Lakers tonight. Don’t make a guy out to be something he’s not. He’s a role player, he has a place, he can’t carry you, shouldn’t be on the floor at the end of games. Casspi has done exactly what? He hasn’t done much on the defensive end, he was on the floor vs Utah too. Casspi has finally gotten his FG% up to 39%, he’s still at around 23% from 3P, all 7 PPG, 2 REB, is making an impact how? You’re talking about a draft pick, that could be nothing, probably even traded before used. Varejao did what last year??? What games did you watch? Lets see how valuable Varejao is tonight, or will you make the argument that he’s undersized, not really a center, was sore from the night before. Varejao has no upside, Hickson’s is unlimited. I’d like to see Hickson on this front court, with this group, but he isn’t here anymore, now I prefer to see more of Thompson, and will anticipate more of he, and Samuels tonight

  • Keith McGlothin

    I didn’t say the NBA doesn’t care about centers, I said the NBA, is no longer center dominated, its no longer a position of strength league wide, You have Howard, and then the rest. There isn’t a team out there, going to the playoffs, that Varejao would start for. Hickson and Samuels both, are better around the basket than Varejao, he doesn’t finish strong, or make free throws. You increase his value by bringing him off the bench in 2 ways, and you help the team in the process. !st you give him better match-ups, on both ends of the floor. Maybe you don’t think so, but I think varejao would have more success opposing 2nd units. You’re also showcasing him in a position of strength, after watching Varejao vs Utah, who arent very big at all, would think he would be worthy of a decent pick, or compensation. Varejao is currently the 2nd highest paid Cavalier. that in itself is a joke. I’ll look for you after the game tonight, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Miami, Boston, all are on the horizon, lets see just how valuable Varejao is, and I said Varejao has a terrible contract, a team may take it on out of necessity, due to injury, and thanks

  • Keith McGlothin

    I said I think Sessions at the present time is a better all around PG than Irving, I’d like to see them play more together, if Irving is going to lead the team FGA’s No question, Irving was impressive last night, but Nash is 18 years older, and blew past Irving at will, he also had 15 assists, with only 3 turnovers, Irving was 6 and 6. For as well as Irving played last night, the 2nd quarter in particular, he still shot 5-25 (1-6 3P) vs Toronto vs who, Jose Calderon?? I like Irving, he wasn’t my choice, but he’s here now, I want him to succeed, I want my team to win. I havent killed him after a few bad games, nor have I lost my mind over a few good ones. He will finally be tested by some of the leagues best, lets see how he finishes the month.

  • Keith McGlothin

    I’ve never had a problem communication, or expressing my opinion. I enjoy respectfully exchanging dialogue, even if I don’t agree, if you have nothing to add, another good thing about twitter, here, or anywhere else, you don’t have to stop, read, or respond, enjoy your weekend. I think that was short, and to the point

  • Keith McGlothin

    A few of your posts have cracked me up as well, I’m Waiting on the Next one… Have a great weekend as well

  • Bill N

    totally agree.  My guess is he’s gonna be around for a while.  There’s value there but probably not value enough. He can be very valuable in teaching Tristan how to impact a game without having a jump shot to rely on.

  • trade for celtics defense minded varejao fits the team

  • boston celtics baby

  • okc and boston are interested… would you like bass or perkins?

  • okc perkins? or boston bass?

  • boston really fits varejao on how he plays the game…but i dont know if what celtics could offer him

  • boston really fits varejao on how he plays the game…but i dont know if what celtics could offer him…

  • boston really fits varejao on how he plays the game…but i dont know if what celtics could offer him………………………..

  • okc or boston.. i dont know.. perkins or bass.. but i dont think perkins fits cleveland