Monday, January 14, 2013

Anderson Varejao Deserves To Be An All-Star

Anderson Varejao has morphed from a role player into a player deserving of an All-Star nod. (

When people think of Anderson Varejao, their minds may wander back to the days when LeBron James donned a Cleveland Cavaliers jersey. 

LeBron was the focal point of an otherwise talent-deprived Cavs squad, and Varejao’s responsibilities were limited to that of mop-up man, rebounder or scrapper. In other words, Varejao was a role player. A valuable piece to the puzzle, but not one of the main pieces. Now that LeBron has been gone for a couple of years, Cleveland is desperate for another star that can bring the Cavs back to the forefront of the NBA. The team drafted talented point guard Kyrie Irving two years ago, who has begun to become one of the better guards in the league, averaging just a shade less than 24 points and six assists per game. The team is young, in a small market, and with the emergence of Irving, these elements again put Varejao in the background. This time, however, he doesn’t belong there at all. This time, he belongs with the All-Stars.
I might ask you to set aside your previous impressions of Anderson Varejao, but that would be a disservice to him. All the old elements and style of play are still there. He’s still a scrapper, rebounder and, in some regards, a mop-up man. The difference is Varejao is putting up better statistics than he has ever before in his nine-year career. He’s averaging a line of 14 points, 14.4 rebounds (that .4 is important. Trust me. I’ll show you why later), and 3.4 assists (the .4 is admittedly less important here). He’s been efficient in his scoring, both from the floor and the free-throw line. Varejao’s shooting barely less than 48 percent from the field and more than 75 percent from the foul line this season.
Let’s start with Varejao’s points per game. Varejao’s career average sits around seven-and-a-half points per game. However, this season, he has raised his level of play and is putting in 14 ppg this season. It’s only the second time in his career that Varejao has averaged double digits in points. The last time was just last season, where he scored 10 ppg. While he probably won’t take Dwight Howard to school off the low block, Varejao’s rise in points is a huge deal and not to be taken lightly. It takes pressure off the other young players on the team to score, like Tyler Zeller, Tristan Thompson or Dion Waiters, and allows them to take on more of a third-option role behind Irving and Varejao. His scoring is significant in that he is still efficient from the field, even though his opportunities have gone up this year. He’s averaging three more shots this season than the next highest total in his career, and is still floating right around the 50 percent mark.
Next, while he has had the reputation of a rebounder for his whole career, Varejao is pulling down more boards than ever before. In fact, he’s pulling down more rebounds than anyone else in the league this season. Varejao is averaging 14.4 rebounds per game, .4 more than the man behind him, Kevin Love (I told you the .4 was important). The evidence that Varejao hasn’t lost any of the scrapper in him from his earlier years is that, out of the 14 rebounds he pulls down in a game, more than five of them come on the offensive end. This can account for some of his scoring numbers going up this year, but it also shows he’s giving his team second-chance opportunities throughout a game. It’s also more than any other player in the NBA. Varejao has been better than rebounding studs such as Love, Howard, Zach Randolph and Joakim Noah.
When you look at it, there’s just no reason for Varejao not to be an All-Star. His statistics are comparable with any other post in the league, and he’s been an efficient player who values and takes care of the ball while getting his teammates involved. He’s also come a long way to get to this point, now in his ninth season, and deserves to be rewarded for his hard work. 

However, with a recent knee injury putting him on the sideline, and his reputation as a role player before this season, Varejao probably won’t get the nod. This is unfortunate and a mistake. First of all, he deserves it; plain and simple. Second, if you’re worried about him taking the honor away from a more deserving player, he won’t take the floor again until March, so put that concern to rest (even though I don’t feel there are many that are more deserving). Finally, why not just reward the guy for the work he’s put in to get here? Fathers everywhere will be able to watch the game with their kids, point to Varejao and say, “See him? That guy wasn’t the best on the floor. He got pushed to the back. But he worked hard and now, he’s an All-Star. If you work hard, someday you can be there, too.” Why not support a dream? Do what’s right. Put Varejao in.

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