I've been reading a lot on these boards about potential trades the Cavs could get involved in, some of them for minor players, some with the Cavs as facilitators (i.e. Dwight Howard) and some for elite talent (Bynum.) In a lot of the scenarios commenters propose, Varejao is often listed as some sort of centerpiece. (I've seen more than one commenter say something akin to, "the dropoff between Bynum and Varejao isn't much" or "Varejao is worth so much more to this team than O.J. Mayo would ever be.")
Having watched Varejao play for the last eight seasons, we all know Varejao is a good player. If Varejao played in a bigger market, he'd probably get more recognition for All-NBA honors. But I wonder if watching him on a nightly basis makes us over-value Varejao.
Let me start with his positives. Varejao does a lot of things very well. He is a good defender, a tremendous rebounder, and he has improved his offensive game to the point where his jump shot is an effective, but perhaps not tremendous, weapon. And of course, any post about Varejao would be remiss without mentioning his hustle; the guy fights for loose balls like no one's business, harasses guys on defenses and generally makes games tougher than they should be for opponents.
My criticism, if you would call it that, would begin with that although he does plenty of things well and hustles on the court, he doesn't seem to have an elite skill. His defense is probably the closest skill to being labeled as such, but Varejao does not possess the same presence or have the same impact as Chandler, Howard or the post-season Garnett we just saw. The rebounding is close as well, especially on offense, but I question if rebounding is often what teams are looking for when they make blockbuster deals. His offense, though decent, isn't his strength, and I don't believe any team really makes adjustments for him as his post game really isn't anything to write home about. Most opponents seem content to let him get 8 - 12 on hustle and a few nice jumpers per game.
So where does that leave us with Varejao? He seems to me like an above-average complementary piece, but not the kind of player who can be built around. Using his comparable player ratings from Basketball-Reference (which are not perfect, but give at least some sort of metric barometer), his three top comparables are Metta World Peace, Bo Outlaw, and Drew Gooden. Other comparables are the likes of Cory Maggettee and Hedu.
Based on that, I don't believe Varejao is likely to be involved in any sort of mega-deal for a superstar. While a lot of teams would like to have him, I don't think a lot of teams would give a lot to get him. I don't even think he is likely to be traded in the upcoming season. Given his contract, he is a niece piece to have around and grow with the new guys. However, I do believe he will be traded in the 2013-2014 season.
The part a lot of commenters are going to disagree with me about is what we get in return. I think his greatest value will be to a team that has a big man go down early or lacks a proper one, and the return for receiving Varejao won't be as great as people think. I believe a plausible situation would be a mid-season deal for multiple picks and a bench player or two. Assuming Thompson and Zellers grow as players to the point where the front office trusts them as plausible starters, and if Kyrie and Waiters provide the offense, this team should be in the playoffs. However, as Varejao will be 31 by that point, I believe they are likely to let him go for some combination of role players and picks to add to the nucleus of the playoff team starting then. What I don't expect is a star, or even a starting player, in return.
I expect to get some backlash on this, but criticism and thoughts are welcome.