Due to the huge offseason moves pulled off by the Cleveland Cavaliers, many see them poised to make a playoff push in the coming season. However, in order for this to happen, the Cavs have to stay (relatively) healthy; if pieces such as Andrew Bynum and Kyrie Irving can’t stay healthy, the Cavaliers season will unravel faster than the dialogue in the movie “the Room” (if you don’t understand the reference, you can see my movie review of the movie here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vttFR35Jahs ) However, to me the biggest key to the Cavaliers’ season will come from big man Anderson Varejao.
Varejao has, over his years in the league, made the leap from an energetic but raw talent, to a game-in game-out productive player, who has developed into one of the best rebounders in the league, as well as an efficient scorer. Statistically he was one of the best centers in the league last season (14.1 PPG and 14.4 RPG) before he got injured. In addition, he has admirably filled in at center for the Cavaliers in the past couple of years while they did not have a true starter at that position, despite being a bit undersized. His improved scoring ability, paired with his versatility in the front court, energy and rebounding ability makes him a very important piece for a team looking to become relevant in the Eastern Conference. Thus, it is of great importance that he stays healthy for this team.
So can the Cavaliers do anything to keep him on the court for the whole season? I say yes. Well, maybe not a 100 percent definitive yes, but I think they can definitely take measures to lower his risk of getting injured. In his career, Varejao has had three seasons where he has been able to play through almost the entire year (he played 81, 81, and 76 games in 2006-07, 2008-09, and 2009-10, respectively). In only one of these seasons did he start more than 10 games (42 in 2008-09). In addition, despite how well Varejao has played starting in the past seasons, I believe he has the greatest effect as a guy that gives you bursts of energy off the bench (bring back the wild thing!) rather than a guy that has to pace how he plays over 30 plus minutes a night. Also, while he has improved his offensive game, the Cavs have a handful of legitimate scoring options already, so they don’t need his scoring as much as in previous years. With all the new talent that the Cavs brought in, I think it’s time to (slightly) cut Varejao’s play time and return him to the role that he had in the beginning of his career; the guy that made plays and shifted the tempo of the game off the bench with bursts of energy off the bench at either the PF or C positions.
We’ve seen in the league the past few years guys that have been able to make impacts on good teams without having to score; see Reggie Evans and Ben Wallace. While Varejao doesn’t have the offensive deficiencies of those two, on a team that already has quite a few scorers, his impact could best be felt through the energy and toughness he could bring to a team that could become quite good.