Why did I pick Anderson Varejao before those remaining?
Because Andy is awesome. If we knew he'd be healthy the whole season then I'm sure he'd be a lot higher on this list. As it is, though, I'll take 25 games of Anderson Varejao over 75 of Earl Clark or Alonzo Gee. And if he does manage to stay healthy for more than that, he just might have a chance to join Kyrie at the 2014 All-Star Game.
What does Anderson Varejao bring to the team this year?
Perfect health, hopefully. Because when he's healthy there isn't much that Andy can't do. He's an absolute monster on the boards, one of the best rebounders in the entire league. He exerts a ridiculous amount of energy while on the court, leading to easy baskets, steals, and generally being a step ahead of everyone else. He has excellent court vision and great touch on his passes. He can knock down the mid-range shot, and he can throw it down too.
Let's take a look at some of the numbers he was putting up last season before he got hurt:
Points per 36 = 14.1
Rebounds per 36 = 14.4
Assists per 36 = 3.4
Steals per 36 = 1.5
Blocks per 36 = 0.6
FG% = 47.8%
FT% = 75.5%
Add in that he is a very skilled and energetic defender, and you have a player with very few weaknesses. He may not block many shots, and he isn't the best post defender, but those complaints are minor compared to everything he brings to the table. The Cavaliers are simply a different team when Andy is healthy. He makes them a better team on both sides of the court. On offense his ability to operate in the high post, knocking down long two's and showing excellent touch and anticipation on his passes, is invaluable. On defense, he excels against the pick & roll, isolations & face-ups. Moreover, his energy rubs off on his teammates.
Let's be clear: a healthy Anderson Varejao is in no way only the 7th best player on the Cavaliers. But we have to consider that he's missed 65% of the last three seasons. We know that he will be a difference maker in every game he plays, but we don't know how many games that will be. If he does turn back the clock and manage to stay healthy, our team could be dangerous, not just in the regular season, but in the playoffs as well.
What is Anderson Varejao's long-term potential with the Cavaliers?
Unknown. If he is plagued by injuries again this year it could be the end of the line. If he stays relatively healthy, though, he's the type of guy you'd like to keep on the team for the rest of his career. Andy, here's hoping for a good year!
And, just for fun, here's some more highlights: