Jarvis Varnado Signs with Chicago Bulls: Call-Up Breakdown
A defensive force in a league dominated by offense, Jarvis Varnado has Chicago Bull written all over him. So Tuesday's news that the prospect and team have united on a 10-day contract comes as no surprise.
In fact, Varnado's Call-Up may have come sooner if he hadn't suffered a hip strain prior to his Jan. 13 workout with the Sixers -- which caused him to momentarily slide from the Top 5 spot he'd locked down in NBADLeague.com's Prospect Watch. When healthy, however, the 25-year-old separates himself from just about every big man in the minor league.
While his point and rebound production (14.1 points, 11.0 rebounds) has remained about the same for the 6-9 big man as last season -- when he earned Call-Ups to the Celtics and Heat -- Varnado has taken his one elite skill, shot-blocking, to another level this year.
To put his 4.7 blocks in 31.7 minutes per game into context, that figure translates to 7.1 swats per 48 minutes; the NBA leader, Anthony Davis, averages 4.1 per 48 minutes. Yes, in this era where rim protection is at a premium, Varnado, the NCAA's all-time leading shot blocker, may very well step into the NBA as one of the big league's better shot blockers. And he should find the perfect home in defensive mastermind Tom Thibodeau's system.
But while he's found a team that will value his defense, Varnado still needs to prove he has the offensive skills to stick at the next level. His field goal percentage took a steep drop this season, mainly because he hasn't finished in the paint as well as he did last year (see 2012-13 and 2013-14 shot charts above). And while he's shown signs of developing a jump shot, just like last season, three-quarters of his shots came from within eight feet.
That said, the NBA D-League's run-and-gun style favors guards, especially in Iowa, where new head coach Nate Bjorkgren had pushed the Energy's pace from 99 possessions/48 minutes in 2012-13 to an ultra-fast 108 this season. Varnado's adjustment to the third-slowest team in the NBA will be one of the keys to his success in turning his third shot at the NBA into a true career.