Cleveland Cavaliers

Top 20 Cleveland Cavaliers: #8 Anderson Varejao

The 8th greatest Cavalier of all-time hails from Brazil.  There isn’t another player in the NBA that does more for his team in terms of hustle and effort.  Anderson Varejao deservedly earned his nickname “The Wild Thing” for his relentless and energetic style of play.  If he’s not on your team, you probably hate him.  Cavs fans love him.  He has the ability to change a game from a rebounding-standpoint, as well as his consistent defensive effort.

Anderson was born in 1982 in Colatina, Brazil.  While most other kids grew up playing soccer, Varejao found basketball to be his natural fit.  At 6 ft. 11″, and 260 pounds, he probably could have been a great goalie.. Brazil could have used him this year in their early-exit from the World Cup.

Regardless, he was a talented basketball player, and in 1998 at the age of 16 he signed with the Franca Basquetbol Clube in the city of Franca, Sao Paulo state.  Franca is known as the basketball capital of Brazil, and he played there for 3 years.  He was touted as an offensively unpolished big-man, but you couldn’t overlook his effort and energy.

In 2001, he signed with FC Barcelona.  He only appeared in two games that year, and scored 4 points total.  The next year, he appeared in 4 games, and averaged 8.3 points and 1.5 rebounds.  Barcelona didn’t know just how valuable Varejao could be.  Anderson didn’t see one minute of playing time in the playoffs.  In 2003, he appeared in 27 regular season games but yet again they held out him out the playoff rotation. 

Gradually, Varejao was becoming a better player and learned how to play his game.  He entered the 2004 NBA draft with hopes to contribute.  The Orlando Magic drafted him with the 30th overall pick.  The Cavaliers wanted him, and acquired him as well as Drew Gooden for Tony Battie.  I imagine the Magic look back on that decision and wince.  Varejao alongside Dwight Howard could have been a dynamic duo.  Worked out for the Cavaliers. 

During his rookie campaign with the Cavaliers in 2004, he appeared in 54 games.  In 16 minutes per game, he averaged 5 points and 5 rebounds.  Vvarejao ranked 1st in the NBA in steals per turnover with 1.58, and 4th in offensive rebounds per 48 minutes with 6.1.  He quickly became a fan favorite with his energetic style of play and awesome hair.

On February 21, 2006, fans at Quicken Loans Arena attempted to break the Guinness World Record for “most people wearing wigs in a single venue” when 20,562 fans wore wigs given away before the game in celebration of Varejao’s unique hairstyle.  Cleveland, stop trying to be famous for dumb things.  This is same franchise who broke the world record for “most people wearing snuggies” in a game this last year.  Ignorance is bliss.

Varejao was a huge part of the Cavs 2006 playoff run.  He averaged 6.8 points and 4.5 rebounds   During the Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Detroit Pistons, he shot over 80% from the free throw line and played a big part in the Cavaliers’ wins in Game 3 (16 points) and Game 4 (drawing a charge from Chauncey Billups with 29 seconds left to play and by preventing Richard Hamilton from making a potentially game-winning shot).

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Mike Brown decided to give Varejao more minutes during the 2006-2007 season.  He appeared in 81 games, and started six times.  He averaged 6.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game and took 99 charges during the season to lead the Association.  Some people think he’s a flopper, but he’s really just a crafty defensive presence and he takes some hard hits during the process.

In the 2007 offseason Varejão became a restricted free agent, and he did not sign a contract with the Cavaliers at the start of the 2007-08 NBA season.  He waited until December, and signed a two-year $11.1 million offer sheet with the Charlotte Bobcats. Under the NBA’s collective bargaining rules, the Cavaliers had one week to match the offer sheet, and that’s exactly what they did.  They weren’t about to allow this talented Brazilian stud to go play for Charlotte.

The Cavaliers knew his impact doesn’t always show up in the statline, and they rewared him after the 2008-2009 season, when they signed him to a 6 year contract worth $42.5 million.  I’d estimate that he probably spends $1 million a year alone to keep that beautiful afro in pristine condition.  Seriously, who in the Association has better hair than Varejao?

This last year, he led the NBA in plus-minus, meaning when he’s on the floor the team plays well.  He has consistently shown to be an invaluable player, and LeBron loves to find him sneaking backdoor for an easy layup at least once a game.

Varejao is also an underrated dunker; He’s been known to throw down a tip-slam, or dunk in someone’s face when he feels its necesssary.   

Anderson plays hard all the time, which is more than can be said about some players.  He will likely be a deciding factor in LeBron’s decision to stay in Cleveland.  Joakim Noah wishes he could be Anderson Varejao (seriously Noah, fix your gap-tooth).  He always gets under the other team’s skin, and it often leads to opposing players picking up technical fouls. 

The Wild Thing will be a staple in Byron Scott’s gameplan for years to come, and he deserves to get a ring with the King.  We’ll never forget the 3 pointer he hit to beat the Hawks last year.  It doesn’t really need to be said, it’s obvious; Anderson Varejao is Underrated

http://lebronunderrated.blogspot.com

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