Would you or wouldn’t you — the simple question posed to many’a Cavalier fans throughout the course of the weekend.
With the NBA Draft rapidly approaching and the Wine and Gold looking to follow in the footsteps of their Oklahoma City build-it-through-the-draft brethren, acquiring lottery selections sits atop Chris Grant’s list of priorities. Rumors abound, be they trading up to acquire Anthony Davis, potentially jumping ahead of Washington to land Bradley Beal, or even moving down in a scenario wherein the Cavaliers draft sixth- and eleventh-overall rather than fourth. But no rumor has drive the sports talk circuit more than the one involving a fan favorite in long-time hustle stat extraordinaire Anderson Varejao, conceivably heading to Golden State along with the 24th-overall selection1 for the Warriors’ seventh-overall pick.
Allegedly, it was the Cavaliers who said ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’
Varejao has long been discussed as a potential trade piece, but not due to a bloated expiring contract or lack of production. Prior to the selection of Kyrie Irving one year ago, it was Varejao who was the most coveted player on the Cavaliers’ roster. It was also Varejao, unfortunately, who managed to get injured during two consecutive seasons, squashing any and all short-term trade value. The teams continued to call, but were asking for a bit of a discount. One that the Cavaliers’ brass has long been unwilling to accept given the leadership, hustle and determination that oozes from the Brazilian big man every time he takes the floor.
But in a world where there is a delicate balance between short-term learning and long-term success, there will also come a time when parting with Varejao is the best move in a basketball sense. Seven-footers demand a premium, skill sets notwithstanding. One who can average a double-double while defending the pick-and-roll with such tenacity will still be on NBA wish lists despite the fact that Varejao is going to turn the big three-zero this September.
So why would Chris Grant be the one to allegedly balk at the offer? Because he should, at least at this stage. Why should the Cavaliers pull the trigger on a deal when they are currently unsure of what options would be there at No. 7? Presently, the tiers of player quality favor Grant holding on to his chips until this Thursday where he could strike while the Draft iron is nine kinds of red.
Anthony Davis is a tier unto himself. Then comes the next wave: Michael Kidd- Gilchrist, Thomas Robinson, Bradley Beal, Harrison Barnes and Andre Drummond. At this stage, these five players could go in any order and no one would bat an eye. But once that seventh-overall pick is on the clock, the fun begins. One national draft pundit says that a player who is taken with No. 7 could easily go at No. 17 if the situation was different. Why would Grant want to trade to the very top of a tier if he would be taking similar quality to those just a handful of picks above his current spot at No. 24?
But in the event that Portland throws a curve ball and takes someone like Damian Lillard — who recently wowed during a private workout — at No. 6 in order to fend off Toronto, that Golden State pick becomes a bit more intriguing. The vast majority of Cavalier fans break out into hives and acquire the shakes upon hearing consideration for UConn’s Andre Drummond at No. 4. However, if — say — Michael Kidd-Gilchrist falls to the fourth-overall pick and Drummond is there at seven, moving Varejao might not be so bad. It’s at least more preferred than dealing a center then being left with two wings2 and then forcing Tristan Thompson into a center role for 36 minutes per evening.
Certainly, any trade of a player like Varejao for a relatively unknown or a project3 would not be applauded by the casual fans. It could also be a move that keeps the Cavaliers in the lottery for yet another off-season as the city of Cleveland saw first-hand that a defense without Varejao in the middle is considerably weaker than one with.
But come Thursday evening, if the Golden State Warriors are on the clock and one Chris Grant’s top four or five players happens to be available at No. 7, he may be hard-pressed to keep the red light on a deal which would undoubtedly have a better chance of improving the long-term prospects of this Cavaliers team. After all, who doesn’t like 11th-hour suspense?