“Andy Varejao was fantastic. Everybody else sucked tonight.”
Those were the words echoed by Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott in his postgame opening statement after the Wine and Gold dropped their fourth straight game to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night, 91-78. The very daunting Scott was right in his assessment, as every Cavalier not named Anderson Varejao shot a combined 20-for-69 (29 percent) from the field.
Scott then got bold with his proclamations.
He’s the best center in the NBA right now. By far the best in the Eastern Conference.
With the big man becoming an abating position in the revamped and hustle-oriented NBA, Scott is absolutely correct regarding his assessment of Wild Thing’s play through 14 games. He’s currently leading the league in rebounds per game, grabbing on average 14.9 boards and has come down with 15 or more rebounds in the last six games.
However, the rebounding category that is most appealing to me is what he’s been able to do on the offensive glass. Last season no player was even close to the mark of 5.8 offensive rebounds that Andy is collecting each game, and he leads the league in that category as well. Varejao is an offensive superstar’s dream, and with him at the peak of his game now, it’s a shame that Kyrie Irving isn’t able to share the success with one of the more impressive stat lines in the Association.
NBA stars would die to have a hard-working and fierce rebounder like Varejao on their roster because he creates second-chance points with his domination of the offensive glass. The Cavaliers rank eighth in the league in pace, a measure that gives the number of possessions a team uses per game. Cleveland hasn’t been able to use their extra trips down the court and the extra attempts that Varejao has provided for them, but he is exactly the right building block that any team would want when pursuing a championship. It really is magical the way Andy has played thus far.
To think that the Cavaliers were thinking about, and still may be with his recent accomplishments, whisking Varejao away to another team for draft picks. Andy is the most important piece to this team right now, and was even with Irving in the lineup. I admit that I was one of those who mentioned before the season that Varejao looked uninterested in playing for the Cavs and a trade would be the best-case scenario for the team, but I now retract any statements I may have made.
You may be thinking that rebounding is just one of many important aspects of what makes a big man dominant, but Varejao has been able to do it on both ends on a consistent basis. The Cavaliers have been one of the most erratic ball clubs this season, especially when it comes to the fourth quarter. The team seems to disappear later on in contests, with the exception of Andy. He tallied 14 points in the third quarter alone in Tuesday night’s game against the Suns, and made a mockery of his teammates’ shooting habits.
Wild Thing finished with 20 points, making up his 10th double-double and also his sixth in a row. No player, save Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, has had more appealing statistics this season when looking at a final box score than Andy. NBA experts are drooling over the intensity and athleticism that he has displayed on the court. His offensive game has been elevated to a new level, with his 14.5 points per game average and 52.5 field goal percentage, which is good for 15th in the league. It seems almost automatic when Varejao spots up from 15-20 feet out. He has been everything that the Cavaliers could have asked for from a player on a team that once again finds themselves on the bottom rung of the NBA and once involved in numerous trade talks dating back to the 2012 NBA draft.
Not to mention that he is also 10th in the league in PER, a statistical measure created by NBA analyst John Hollinger that gives the overall rating of a player’s per-minute statistical production. The league average is somewhere around 15.00, and Andy stands at 23.90. Varejao finds himself within a very impressive top 10 group, grouping him with names such as LeBron James (28.54), Kevin Durant (27.45), Kobe Bryant (25.76) and Chris Paul (24.43).
The Cavaliers mailed in one of their most pathetic performances of the 2012-13 season, but if you were watching it seemed as if Varejao was playing with a totally different mindset than his teammates. There’s no doubt that he is playing with the tenacity of an All-Star, and it would be a damn shame if he receive the trip to Houston. He has been one of the bright spots and nice surprises of the young season, and the Cavaliers can’t let “the best center in the NBA right now” slip through the cracks.
The Cleveland faithful couldn’t have asked for more from their superstar, especially since he is outplaying and outhustling bigs such as Dwight Howard and Roy Hibbert.