Season in Review: Anderson Varejao

June 5, 2012
Anderson Varejao

Season Overview: In one respect, it’s easy to know what you’re going to get from Anderson Varejao – all-out energy, heart and hustle, rock-solid rebounding and defense. In another respect, it’s tough to expect an entire season of that good stuff.

The two are interrelated. There might not be a player in the NBA who gives his body up more than Varejao. But over the past two seasons, he’s taken a physical pounding for doing so.

Once again this year, the Wild Thing’s season was cut in half – with Varejao watching his teammates finish out the season in street clothes on the Cavaliers bench. In 2011-12, another All-Star-caliber season ended when Varejao was shelved with a non-displaced right wrist fracture on February 11. He missed the remaining 45 games of the truncated season.

It’s not that Varejao hasn’t shown he can handle the NBA grind. In the four seasons before last, Andy averaged over 71 games per season. But he was coming off the bench as a forward in those seasons and has been the club’s starting center over the past two. And for as his youthful exuberance, Varejao will be 30 years old when the 2012-13 tips off.

Still, at any age and at any frontline position, Anderson not only produces, but gives Coach Scott something completely unique. There isn’t a player in the league with Varejao’s combination of skill, smarts and hustle. Even the casual fan can see: Andy simply wants it more than anyone else.

And although the native Brazilian was playing out of position for the second straight season, he was putting up career numbers.

Comparing his stats from his career previous to 2011-12 to this year, Varejao made big leaps in scoring – from 7.1 ppg to 10.8 in 2012 – as well as rebounding (6.9 rpg to 11.5), offensive rebounding (2.3 to 4.4) and minutes per contest (24.7 to 31.4).

Anderson finished with a career-high 14 double-doubles, shot .514 from the floor while averaging 11.5 boards per game. Had he stayed healthy and on that pace all year, he’d have finished fourth in the NBA in rebounding.

If the Cavaliers intend to return to the postseason promised land, they’ll need Anderson healthy for an entire season. The squad was 10-15 in the 25 games Andy started and, again, he was playing at an All-Star level. He’ll likely play for Brazil in the 2012 Olympics in London, and the Wine and Gold hope he’s healthy and ready to roll when Training Camp begins six weeks later.

Highlight: Adding to his frustration this year, Anderson was playing his best ball before injuring his wrist in a Friday night loss to the Bucks. Varejao was really good through the start of the season, but in five games from January 31 to February 8, the Wild Thing averaged 15.0 points and 14.8 boards per contest – shooting nearly 58 percent from the floor 82 percent from the stripe.

Lowlight: After watching Anderson for seven seasons, it’s obvious that injuries are the only thing that truly stops him. In four poor-shooting games earlier this season, Varejao scored 2, 3, 3 and 4 points, respectively. In those four games, he averaged 10.5 rebounds per contest.

Odds and Ends: … Encouraged by his road dog, Anthony Parker, Anderson got hooked on several TV series during the season, including “Boardwalk Empire,” “Sons of Anarchy” and, of course, “Breaking Bad.”

By the Numbers: 11, 11; 17, 17; 20, 20 … symmetrical scoring and rebounding games for Varejao against some of the league’s toughest opponents. He notched 11 points and 11 boards against Miami, 17 and 17 against the World Champion Mavericks and 20 and 20 against the Celtics.

Looking forward: More than anything, Cavs coaches and fans are just looking forward to more Varejao. But if there’s one thing those parties are really anticipating is what teaming Varejao with Tristan Thompson will look like.

Thompson was just finding his rookie footing when Anderson went down and was thrust into the starting lineup not long after. Playing the two space-eating energy guys together – plus a possible 2012 Draft pick – is an enticing idea heading into next year.

Quotable: Celtics coach, Doc Rivers

“Varejao’s always an All-Star as far as I’m concerned. I think they should keep a spot for a role player. That’s what he does, he plays his role…He had 20 points and they didn’t run one (offensive) set for him.”

Mavericks forward, Dirk Nowitzki

“He’s an animal. We knew that coming in and he’s just great. He’s relentless…He’s got a great nose for the ball and he just keeps coming. (There are plays) when you think two guys have it and he just gets in there, tips it and someone comes up with it…He’s very active. I don’t think we’re the only team he’s done it to.”

Celtics forward, Paul Pierce

“Varejao is just a pain in the butt with his offensive rebounding, the way he knocks down shots and keeps (loose) balls alive. He’s probably one of the more underrated players in the NBA with how much energy he gives this ball club…He has a knack of somehow coming up with the ball all the time.”