Varejao Gets His Dinheiro (Money), Wants More
Depending on whom you ask, Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry either beat the stuffing out of Anderson Varejao and his agent Dan Fegan, or Varejao and Fegan suckered the Cavaliers into going way over the salary cap.
No matter which side you choose, Varejao is a member of the Cavaliers today after the team wasted little time matching the three-year, $17.4 million offer sheet the floppy-haired, Brazilian Carrot Top signed with the Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday.
The contract contains an opt out clause, which allows Varejao to become a free agent after two years. Varejao expects to leave Cleveland after two years and get the money he believes he is owed as he enters his prime at 27.
This deal will have no impact on tonight's game at the Verizon Center, since Varejao reportedly celebrated the end of one of the more lengthy contract holdouts in recent memory last night in Los Angeles, and he isn't expected to join the team until later this week.
For months, all that you heard about was how Varejao reportedly wanted around $9-$10 million a year. Ferry blundered trying to negotiate a deal without Fegan, traveling to Brazil unannounced in hopes of signing him, a few weeks ago. Then came the posturing. Varejao threatened to play in Europe, threatened to never play for the Cavaliers again and bashed his teammates in an ESPN article in which he claimed, "I don't think I'll be happy in Cleveland knowing that I was [almost] the lowest-paid player there for three years and am still paid much less than players on the team that I outperform. Life's too short to be unhappy."
I totally understand Varejao's frustration when the Cavaliers have about $32 million committed to Larry Hughes, Eric Snow, Donyell Marshall, Damon Jones and Ira Newble. But I also understand why Ferry has no desires to keep overpaying for players.
I guess Varejeo is supposed to be a big deal because he was on a team that went to the NBA Finals. But has a player with less skill and talent been given so much attention? Some have tried to make him more valuable than he really is. I still don't know what all of the fuss is about.
The last image I have of Varejao was in the final seconds of Game 3, when LeBron James threw him the ball inside, expecting to get it back. Varejao had other plans, as he decided to take Tim Duncan one-on-one and attempted one of the ugliest shots I've ever witnessed at an NBA game. Three feet from the basket, he tossed it five feet.
That may have been the first hint that he had an inflated opinion of his game. He thought a shot against Duncan was better than another look for LeBron?
I know the arguments defending Varejao's worth involve his great plus-minus ratio and production per 40 minutes or whatever. In six games as a starter, Varejao averaged 12 points and 11.3 rebounds. But if he was meant to be a starter for the Cavs, he would be. If he earns it, he will be.
I remember having a conversation with an NBA coach once and I started rattling off all of these stats to explain how bad they were on the defensive end of the floor. He nodded, smiled, and told me, "You can make numbers work anyway you want."
His point? Stats are often interesting but sometimes insignificant. My point? No doubt, Varejao will help the Cavaliers, but let's be serious and look at the only numbers that really matter: Varejao still averaged just 6.8 points and 6.7 rebounds. That sort of production does not warrant $8 million (or better) per year deals - at least they shouldn't - no matter how you try to spin it.
It's not like he had a bunch of lucrative offers to ponder last summer. Varejao will regret passing on the offers Ferry and the Cavs reportedly made him (five-years, $32-million and three-years, $20). This is less than what they were prepared to pay, so I can only imagine that they are elated to have him back.
It won't really matter until LeBron James comes back from a sprained left index finger, though.
I'm in the camp that energy players/role players need to snatch up as much money as possible, whenever possible. Unless you have the potential to become a 20-point scorer in this league, you don't gamble with big money, leave tons on the table, and expect somebody to pay you in the future.
I know Fegan has used this strategy before with clients such as Stephen Jackson, but Jackson is primarily an offensive player - and a starter. Backup hustle guys usually don't get big money. Heck, backup offensive players don't usually get big money.
Remember Bonzi Wells? He turned down a five-year, $36-million offer from the Sacramento Kings in 2006 and he will never see that kind of money again. Yes, he has a lot of personal baggage that hurt him in the long run, but let me know when Varejao can be like Bonzi and average 23.2 points and 12 rebounds in a playoff series against the Spurs.
I know scoring doesn't always explain a player's value; how well he works in the pick and roll, if he sets hard picks, or if he gets you extra possessions on offense with rebound tips. Varejao provides some immeasurable intangibles, but how much are those really worth?
My big question is: Does Varejao really have an upside? Is he really going to be much better than he already is? I mean, the man draws charges, chases down loose balls, fights hard for rebounds and he really got into Rasheed Wallace's head during the Eastern Conference Finals last year (but who doesn't get into Wallace's head?).
But will he magically develop Drew Gooden's jump shot? Will he turn it into a rebounding machine like Dennis Rodman or a Detroit Pistons-era Ben Wallace? I'd love to see it, but I don't see it.
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