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Cavaliers Re-Signing Varejao Not the Right Move, the Only Move

Brazilian PF Anderson Varejao is re-signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers, for a reported deal worth 42.5 million over six years, with incentives that could make it 50. There is no shortage of people who are happy about this deal. Not many of them are Cavalier fans.

Cavs fans wanted a high profile free agent: Either a big guard who could defend someone like Hedo Turkoglu, or a forward that could stretch the floor and shoot the three. Rasheed Wallace, Charlie Villanueva, Trevor Ariza, Ron Artest, Shawn Marion and Lamar Odom were all possibilities. We wanted anyone who could come in and help shore up the team's size deficiencies that were highlighted in the Eastern Conference Finals loss to Orlando.

Ariza and Artest spurned the Cavs to play closer to home. Wallace was never a serious target and Marion is headed to Dallas in a 3-way trade. Only Odom is still available, and the candy man seems unlikely to be interested in playing on the shores of Lake Erie, given his fondness for the sunny beaches of L.A.

The point is that Danny Ferry and the Cavaliers were out of options. With LeBron's impending free agency, Shaq being a question mark, and the infamously depressing weather, guys don't want to play in Cleveland.

So they paid for Varejao to return. Overpaid, many people are suggesting. A guy that averaged 8.3 points can't possibly be worth that much. Ferry must be crazy.

The critics of this deal are missing the point. First of all, Cleveland has no other option at PF, so Varejao was likely coming back under any circumstance. He chose not to exercise his player option, which would have paid him 6.3 million next year. Even if Varejao meets every contract incentive, and the Cavaliers end up paying him the entire 50 million dollar contract, which is unlikely, he is only receiving 8.3 million per year. That represents a two million dollar yearly raise. For a rapidly improving player who recently joined the starting lineup, that’s not so unreasonable.

Yes, that would mean 8.3 million per year for 8.3 points per game. There is, however, much more to Anderson Varejao’s game than the numbers, especially the offensive numbers, suggest.

He gets under people's skin, and then he's tough enough to take an elbow to the groin from a frustrated opponent. He flops, yes, but he also draws charges. He's an excellent rebounder, and in the playoffs, offensive rebounds are priceless. He's the kind of player you hate to watch your team play against.

How many times have you watched an opposing player grab a key offensive rebound, forcing your team to stay on defense when they should be driving the other way? Varejao specializes at getting those rebounds that deflate the opponent. And with teammates like LeBron and Shaq, this Cavalier team is likely to make you pay if you give them second possessions.

Varejao’s offensive game is a work in progress, which means he is often alone under the hoop to receive one of LeBron's amazing assists. His developing offense, and burgeoning chemistry with LeBron are overlooked aspects of Varejao's game. His young, energetic legs should be a perfect complement to the slower Shaquille O'Neal, especially when defending pick and rolls.

If Anderson continues to bring his same energy, toughness, rebounding and scrappy defense every night, it's not such a bad deal, especially considering the lack of options. But if he also continues to develop his mid-range jump shot and give LeBron a target under the basket, nobody will be questioning this deal a year from now.


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