Despite reports by ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Cleveland Cavaliers were not considering the trade of center Anderson Varejao for Byron (BJ) Mullens and/or Cole Aldrich from the Oklahoma City Thunder, a source close to the team tells WFNY.
The report in question – published on January 28th – insinuates that the Cavaliers and general manager Chris Grant were shopping their now-injured Brazilian big man to Oklahoma City, and would have been forced to take whatever low-ball offer the Thunder were willing to move; in this specific case, Aldrich or Mullens. The source tell WFNY that not only was the Stein piece wildly misleading, but it has now cast the Cavaliers in a light of desperation which has had a negative effect on subsequent informal talks with other teams.
As told to WFNY, the Cavaliers did in fact have discussions with the Thunder as they are one of the many teams who continue to be impressed with Varejao’s contributions on both ends of the floor along with his ability to make an impact without the ball in his possession. While Mullens and Aldrich are undoubtedly young big men who represent a typical business counter offer, neither are viewed as adequate compensation – in the eyes of the Cavaliers – for Varejao who is still under guaranteed contract for three more seasons.
Stein referenced the athletic shooting guard James Harden and tweener forward Jeff Green, the latter of which is essentially unavailable.
The Cavaliers, currently sitting at a league-worst record of 8-43, are in the midst of a record-breaking losing streak of 24 straight games. They have been decimated by injuries after losing Varejao for the season, as well as teammates Mo Williams, Daniel Gibson, Leon Powe, and Anthony Parker all missing various games with their respective issues. Having a lot of flexibility in their favor (multiple expiring contracts, a $15 million Traded Player Exception), the Cavaliers were considered to be among the most likely to make a move this season, but have seen their assets take a hit in present value.
Adding to the mix of uncertainty is the oft-rumored deal for Denver’s Carmelo Anthony as well as the expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement.
On top of the negative PR from a fan base who desperately wants the Cavaliers to get better (wherein a trade for Mullens/Aldrich would not be an easy sell), the report in question has allegedly forced other teams to low-ball the Cavaliers under the assumption that the team would take unproven talent in return for their biggest asset.
Varejao is scheduled to have surgery on his injured foot this week in North Carolina. The timetable for his return is three-to-four months, but the 28-year old big man has been told that he will be 100 percent following the procedure. On the season, Varejao averaged a career-best 9.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocked shots per game.
Despite playing in only 31 games, Varejao remains among the top-20 in the entire NBA in terms of Win Share (10.05). It is widley speculated that the second team NBA All-Defender will be the starting center for 2011-12 while the Cavaliers rebuild the backcourt and wing positions.