Though the center was once that embodiment of inconsistency and frailty, Varejao has seemingly gotten his act together. He’s having a career year, averaging 14.3 points and 14.8 rebounds to lead the NBA, and has never been more of a two-way force than he is now.
Naturally, in the midst of an All-Star caliber year, the Cavaliers are looking to, once again, trade the big man.
According to Alex Kennedy of HOOPSWORLD, Cleveland’s towering big is once again the center of trade speculation:
One league source suggested that Varejao would be open to a trade rather than playing the best basketball of his career on a 4-17 Cavs team that seems poised for another trip to the lottery. At this point in Varejao’s career, he likely wants to play for a contender, especially after getting a taste of deep postseason runs earlier in his career.
The general consensus around the league is that it makes sense for Cleveland to cash in Varejao for some assets that will be in their long-term plan. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen. The Cavaliers could once again set their asking price extremely high and choose not to pull the trigger on a deal. However, with Varejao having a career-year and the team still having plenty of holes, moving Varejao seems more likely now than ever before.
In some regards, dealing Varejao does makes sense. He is 30-years-old and under a very reasonable contract, and Cleveland could opt to ship him off in favor of some younger talent.
Yet is that the smart play? As Kennedy noted, the Cavs have hung onto to Varejao for so long because he’s such an integral part of their team. So why trade him now?
Obviously, Cleveland’s 5-18 record speaks for itself. They’re in full-fledged rebuilding mode and are unlikely to emerge as a contender next season, let alone do anything worthwhile this season.
But that said, wherever the Cavaliers are going, they’ll ultimately get their faster with Varejao. Yes, he’s getting older, but he’s posting a PER of 22.41 and remains one of the best rebounding bigs in the league.
What’s more is he provides complementary leadership to Kyrie Irving. There’s no doubt that Irving has become the face of this team, but he lacks someone he himself can depend on. Outside of Varejao, that is.
Sound veterans are a luxury in the NBA. Certain teams may overuse them—i.e. the Knicks—but generally, experienced players who can help lead a franchise’s ultimate cause while keeping the youngsters grounded is a valued commodity. A veteran who is playing the best basketball of his career and could help the Cavs contend for a playoff spot next season, though? Well that’s an even bigger commodity.
I didn’t agree with the Cavs when they drafted Dion Waiters. I didn’t agree with them when they opted not to use the plethora of cap space they had this summer. And I certainly don’t agree with the decision to now move Varejao.
Sure, his value on the open market has never been higher, but Cleveland—with a healthy Irving, of course—is an actual force to be reckoned with. The Cavaliers’ record won’t reflect it this season—injuries be damned—but it could next season.
Why would the Cavs want to give up that opportunity?
They shouldn’t want to.
And if they have any intention of becoming a playoff team in the near future, they won’t want to.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.