Anderson Varejao, the NBA’s ignored All Star

[A note to all 0.5 of my loyal fans: Apologies for the Thanksgiving hiatus … hopefully I can get content flowing on a more consistent basis.]

Let’s start with a challenge. You find me a more valuable trade piece for a contender come February than Anderson Varejao, and I’ll salute you. General Managers across the NBA will be lining up for this guy; I’m sure they are already. And, dear Lord, please don’t let Chris Grant send him away. (I don’t care about a first round pick — Andy’s only 30 and has at least 4-5 years of good basketball left if he can stay healthy. Oh, and quality NBA centers don’t grow on trees.)

Andy’s an All Star … even though fans and commentators outside of Cleveland really aren’t aware of his true value. Maybe it’s because the Cavaliers haven’t been on the national map since “The Decision.” Maybe it’s because of his free-flowing hair. Maybe it’s because he’s Brazilian. Maybe it’s because fans perceive him as a flopper. Maybe it’s a combination of the four … I don’t know. But this guy is one of the best bigs in the NBA. Period.

I mean, look at his numbers. In 12 games, he’s averaging 14 points and 14.1 rebounds a night, with the latter being tops in the NBA. He’s grabbing 5.6 rebounds in less than 36 minutes a night … just on the offensive end! In a competitive game Monday against the Western Conference-leading Memphis Grizzlies and their brutal frontcourt of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, the league’s second-highest rebounder, Andy took down 22 boards; by comparison, Randolph had 8, and Gasol had 6. Among centers, Varejao’s tied for ninth in the NBA in scoring, easily besting the likes of Roy Hibbert, DeAndre Jordan and Tyson Chandler.

Andy’s really come into his own since LeBron left … even though he worked the screen and roll so, so well with LeBron (hence, the 2005-06 Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. Detroit). The last two years Andy’s faced season-ending ankle and wrist injuries, respectively, but before he went down last year, his 10.5 PPG and 11.8 RPG was enough to warrant fringe All Star consideration.

But this year’s different. I don’t care about Chris Bosh. I don’t care about Tyson Chandler, or Brook Lopez, or Greg Monroe, or Kevin Garnett. Not one, maybe with the exception of Garnett, is more important to his team than Andy. The energy and tenacity he brings to both ends of the floor, the interior scoring, the extra possessions, the loose balls. All the stuff that doesn’t make the stat sheets. (I mean, the guy’s shooting almost 80% from the FT line … GET OUT!)

So, Cavaliers fans, embrace my new creation: #sendAndytoHouston.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.


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