To think of Anderson Varejao as the Cavs elder statesmen is an odd, but realistic truth. The wild-haired Brazilian, one of the two Cavaliers left from the LeBron James era, is only 29 years old, but it feels like he’s been around forever. Last season, his breakout NBA season in terms of statistics, was only his eighth season the NBA.
Last season was also Varejao’s best NBA season by far, statistically. He only played in 25 games last season due to a broken wrist, but while healthy, Varejao had his best season as a pro. In those 25 games, Varejao had this stat line: 10.8 points per game, 11.5 rebounds per game, and 51.4 percent shooting from the field coupled with a career high 67.2 percent free throw percentage. Those numbers, if kept up for a whole season, would have been the best overall season of his NBA career without question. Averaging a double-double over the course of a full season would have put his stat line in the same class as players like Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum. Varejao is not as good as them, but that is impressive nonetheless.
This is a big season for Varejao for a lot of reasons. First off, it’s very important that he can stay healthy for at least the majority of the season. In the last two seasons (a total of 148 games) Varejao played a combined 56 games. That’s is only 37.8 percent percent of all possible games. For a player with Varejao’s contract (six years, $42.5 million), that is not anything to write home about. Also, Varejao is the second-best player on the Cavs roster behind Kyrie Irving. If the Cavs want to be any good this season or at least make an improvement from last season, they need Varejao. He’s not only a good player, but is a guy who can help the trio of Samardo Samuels, Tyler Zeller, and Tristan Thompson become viable frontcourt players in the NBA by mentoring them on and off the court. If he is not healthy for the majority of this season, one has to wonder what the Cavs will decide to do with him for the future. He has three years left on his contract, but they could trade him for young talent, or simply release him.
Rumors of Varejao leaving Cleveland via trade were circulating this last summer in some of the early Dwight Howard trade talks. Those deals, unlike any deal that could possibly be available now, would have brought the Cavaliers a young star center in Andrew Bynum. That is only kind of deal that the Cavs should even consider for their Brazilian spark plug. No other deal out there gives them appropriate value in return.
I’m expecting Anderson to have a healthy season in which he again averages a double-double. I think his injury last season was due in part to the stress of the shortened season and him coming off an injury the previous season. I’d expect him to play 70-75 games, average about the same points and rebounds as he did last season, and possibly make the All-Star team. It’s a big year for Varejao, and his season and battle to stay healthy will be a major storyline to watch for all 82 games.