July 22, 2014

Varejao’s Injury Changes Cavs Outlook

Well, I didn’t want to watch the Cavs lose to the Heat in the first round anyways.

Whatever playoff hopes the Cavaliers had, losing Anderson Varejao to a wrist injury has dashed them considerably. It’s such a shame, as Anderson was having his best season and was finally getting some recognition for his invaluable contributions. But even in their best-case-scenario, these young Cavaliers had such a slim margin for error. Cleveland is a top heavy team with a decent, if unspectacular, bench and some aging pieces. For the Cavs to make the playoffs, a lot of things would’ve had to gone right and broke their way.

Things have not gone right.

Personally, I was against the idea of the Cavs making the 8th seed (as much as I’d have enjoyed a showdown with LeBron’s Heat, that wasn’t going to end well for Cleveland fans), but I was interested to see how this young team would’ve handled itself down the stretch. Would the Cavs have made a dumb trade for Chris Kaman? Would Byron Scott have increased Kyrie Irving’s minutes? Would Antawn Jamison have played defense at any point of the season? If the Cavs were in playoff contention, would they have still looked to flip players like Jamison and Ramon Sessions (both of whom won’t be back next year)?

Anderson Varejao’s injury makes all of this speculation moot.

Even as a guy firmly in the “the Cavs need to be drafting high in the 2012 lottery” camp, losing Andy still hurts. While Varejao was their biggest and best trade asset, I was fine with the Cavs holding on to him (mostly because I wasn’t a fan of many trade scenarios). It’s hard to find size in the NBA, hence why big men are habitually overpaid and stiffs like DeSagana Diop, Michael Olowokandi and Hasheem Thabeet are routinely picked high in the draft. I just don’t see how Chris Grant would’ve gotten equal value for a super role player like Andy (not to mention the issue of trading a legit NBA big man without having a replacement ready to step in).

Having Varejao on the court gives Coach Scott a perfect example of how to compete at the NBA level. With Varejao injured, the Cavs are not only without their best big man but also their best veteran leader. Sure, Jamison and Parker are still around, but their “locker room” leadership is of a different variety than Anderson’s “here’s how you play hard for every single second of NBA game” leadership style. As Kyrie said, Varejao’s energy and toughness is “contagious.”

It’s not coincidence that without their two best players and facing a playoff team like the Sixers, the Cavs inspired flashbacks to last year’s squad. Of course, any team would look that much worse when missing their starting point guard and center. But other teams also don’t employ Semih Erden, Samardo Samuels, Christia Eyenga, Ryan Hollins, and Omri Casspi… the Cavs are more than just a piece away. I was never rooting for the Cavs to actually tank games (I don’t think any fan watches games hoping that their team’s shots don’t fall or that they blow leads), I just didn’t think that Kyrie and Andy dragging an under-talented, overachieving team to the playoffs was in the Cavaliers’ best long term interest.

If there’s a silver lining to this injury (asides from a higher draft pick), it’s that Andy ‘only’ broke his wrist. This was a freak injury that could’ve happened to anyone (Drew Gooden simply slapped at the ball) and not an injury that’s indicative of Varejao’s wild style of play. One of the arguments for trading Andy this season is that his body may not hold up by the time the Cavaliers are ready to contend in a few years. This is a legitimate concern. In his seven years in the NBA, Varejao has only appeared in 70 or more games just three times. Losing Andy to ‘only’ a wrist injury saves him from another year of flops charges taken, wear-and-tear on his body and additional miles on his legs.

The good news is the Cavs are in the midst of a nine game home stand, so they should be able to find some practice time to work on life without Varejao. Plus, Kyrie Irving is looking like he could return as early as Wednesday against the Pacers. It’ll be interesting to see how this young Cavs team responds to adversity. This lockout shortened season just got that much harder and it’ll be up to coach Byron Scott to keep his team focused and to steady this injury riddled ship.

Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Alan Diaz

  • Anonymous

    I see Kyrie’s numbers going down.  We’ll have fewer possessions due to Andy being out and Kyrie won’t be able to find Andy on the pick n roll. 

    This really sucks, having Andy & Kyrie made this team infinitely more watchable.  Let’s hope Kyrie & TT continue to grow so we can at least enjoy watching them.

  • http://twitter.com/007EthanLange Ethan Lange

    Definitely a bummer. I was enjoying watching the team this year. Dittoing Lyon25′s statement in hoping that TT shows signs of improvement so I can enjoy watching that.

    That being said, I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t at least a bit excited for a shot at MKG, Barnes, Davis, etc.

  • Anonymous

    No trade for you!

  • Harv 21

    no pick and rolls with Andy = more shots for Jamison. Oh, goody.

    Hope Kyrie’s competitveness doesn’t lead him into a crazy shot habit like Iverson. Just make the correct basketball play, son. If they miss the shot or fumble the pass, that’s on them. Help is coming. We hope.

  • Steve

    That’s one thing I’m absolutely loving about Irving, how efficiently he is scoring already. He would have to go zero for his next three games (at the 14 shots a night he puts up) before he has a TS% equal to Iverson’s career mark.

  • Anonymous

    Well, all those people worrying about the Cavs finishing high enough for the 8th seed in the playoffs will have their wish… without Andy, I really can’t imagine this team winning more than a few games here and a few games there for the rest of the season.  It’s not only the quality of Varejao, but it’s also the pile of crap that’s behind him.  We have an infinite string of centers who don’t rebound, don’t protect the rim, and don’t know how to use the pick and roll.  Should be fun!

  • BenRM

    I’m with you on this. I’d be lying if I said I was heartbroken by the news. 

  • Anonymous

    I think I’d be happier about the Cavs getting a higher draft pick if I thought that it mattered more.  I’m not sure which players look like stars and which players look like solid contributors in this year’s draft, and I think NBA GMs are just as unsure.  Granted, I think we and they will have a much better idea of this after conference tournaments and the NCAA tournament, but right now I would have been just as happy with the 10th pick as with the 1st pick.  Can anyone really say that Harrison Barnes is going to be a better pro than Jeremy Lamb?  Anthony Davis is the projected #1 pick according to Chad Ford, but what’s his ceiling?  I think he’ll be Marcus Camby 2.0, which is a nice player to have but not a dominant star.  So anyway I’m going off on a tangent, but my main point is that I don’t know exactly why it’s beneficial to lose a few more games this season… I think I would have rather watched the Cavs finish 10th in the East with Andy V in the lineup every night so that I could get more enjoyment out of this season’s games.  It’s still going to be fun to watch Kyrie and Tigger, but it’s going to be brutal watching Samuels/Hollins/Erden attempt to guard every other center in the league.

  • VA Cavs Fan

    Thoughts… 1) Yes, the season is officially over. 2) It’s clearly time to trade Ramon and Tawn (and Parker is we could get ANYTHING for him), and I hope we can trade for some good young talent.  The draft just never seems to pan out unless you get a top 5 pick.  3) Kyrie, Tristan, and Gee need to be on the floor together for 35 minutes a game.  Tristan is going to be very good.  He reminds me of a young Dwight Howard.  Howard was a mess when he first came into the league.  Tristan needs to put on 20-30 lbs of muscle like Dwight did, and he’ll be a force. I can see 2 years from now these guys being our “big three”.  4) Other than Boobie, and Casspi, is there anyone worth keeping on this roster?  Erden, Hollins, Harangody, Samuels, Eyenga… I mean, do any of these guys even earn a spot on any other club?  Eyenga has moments (blocks and a dunk here and there), but these guys kill us when they come in the game.  Ok, venting over. :)

  • Steve

     You may not see the difference between Barnes and Lamb, but there is a huge difference between the 1 and 10 pick. Yeah, you may pick the wrong guy at 1, but there’s still a lot more value in letting your scouts pick who they think is best rather than waiting for 9 guys to go off the board first.

  • Anonymous

    Well, I guess my response would be that I’m not a scout or a GM… I’m just a dude with an opinion.  I don’t have to rank guys and then stand behind my rankings to keep my job… I can take a wide view and speculate that the top 9 guys on Chad Ford’s big board are all on the same “tier” this year and offer that there really isn’t a strong argument for any one of those guys to be head and shoulders above the rest.  So the point I’m making is that there is more variability this year than in years past about who to select at which spot.  I think you’re correct that scouts and GMs want that #1 pick because in their mind they know who their clear favorite is or who would fit best into their team, but from my angle, I don’t see the clear favorite.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/NPLQCUUPGB6V2W5K7TOKQ7DZKI Michael

    The wear and tear on Andy’s body doesn’t come from his style of play, as commentators would have you believe – it comes from opposing players cheap-shoting him with impugnity every chance they get. The two times he was undercut while trying to rebound in the Clippers game, not to mention Griffin’s intentional backhand to his face – all with an official standing by looking right at it while swallowing the whistle. It’s no wonder Gooden knew he could slap and hack Andy all night, certain there would be no foul called. If Andy were in a major market uni, he’d lead the league in free-throw attempts – or, more likely, teams would stop trying to kill him in front of the refs because they’d know the foul would be called. If that league policy is designed as an incentive for him to leave, it sure stinks.