It’s really a shame that it has gotten to this point, but the frustration levels are so high with Anderson Varejao amongst Warriors fans that he’s probably one of the least popular players on the squad.
In fact, he’s the only player my mom gets vocally upset about when he’s inserted into the game by Steve Kerr.
It saddens me, because it didn’t have to be this way. In terms of NBA big men, Varejao is multidimensional and skilled.
Instead, he has allowed himself to be turned into a caricature with his antics out on the court. Aristotle said that all things need to be enjoyed in moderation, but apparently Varejao slept through philosophy class.
Let me make things abundantly clear: I’m not against flopping. If a player can sell a foul in order to give his team an extra possession, it’s a fantastic way to shift momentum.
Some may deride it as dishonest, and I don’t really have a good retort for that, except that referees are paid to regulate the narrative of a game, and it’s on them to stop the flopping if it turns egregious.
It also slows the game down, but any whistle does. The easiest way to curb it is for referees to be vigilant. If players on defense aren’t getting that call, they’ll eventually stop doing it, at least in theory.
That assumption is really tested with Varejao, though, because it got to an outrageous level last season that nobody could really take seriously.
It’s one thing to pick opportune moments to sell a call and force a turnover, but it starts getting ridiculous when every time contact is made a player flails uncontrollably as if being hit by a tank.
It’s even more hilarious when a much smaller player barrels into Varejao and he acts as if he’s suddenly a paper bag floating in the wind.
It’s funny to an extent, but after a while you want to pull him aside and tell him to start focusing on the actual basketball game at hand.
With the roster shakeup this offseason, the Warriors are likely going to be leaning on Varejao for more frontcourt minutes off the bench.
While the pulse of the fan base may be to look at this with skepticism, I urge people to have have more faith in this guy.
After all, he proved in Cleveland that he is a very adept inside scorer with a reliable midrange jumper and great rebounding ability.
He’s a very intelligent defender, although he’s not going to serve as any rim protecting presence inside.
He’s a high energy guy who really endeared himself to the fans in Cleveland. A guy doesn’t become that popular with a franchise by accident.
Maybe it’s way too optimistic of a conjecture, but my thinking is that he consciously pigeonholed himself when he joined the Warriors this past season.
He knew he wasn’t going to get a lot of playing time, so he purposely devoted himself to just being that hustle guy devoted to swinging momentum through any means necessary, which usually manifested itself through flopping.
If he’s given more responsibility, look for those reckless actions to decrease. After all, fouls aren’t ever a factor when you’re averaging less than 9 minutes per game.
More playing time means that those fouls with have to be conserved to a greater extent, and that’s going to decrease the amount of times Varejao tries to draw a charge.
His career total rebound percentage is 17.4%, which puts him in very good company amongst active players.
Only 6 qualifying players in the league right now have a career percentage higher than that. It’s a higher percentage than guys like Andrew Bogut, Zach Randolph, David Lee, Al Horford, and Pau Gasol, all considered extremely talented rebounders.
Of course, Varejao is about to turn 34, and he had his lowest total rebound percentage rate of his career last season.
He’s certainly on the decline, but my point is that it’s not entirely fair to view him as simply a flopper with nothing else to offer.
I blame him for that perception, though, because he definitely overdid it last season. I’m hoping that with a greater role this season, he’ll get back to contributing in more productive ways, like he did in Cleveland.
Varejao was born in Brazil, and is one of the most accomplished basketball players in the history of that country.
From 1998-2002, he played with a team in Sao Paulo called Franca Basquetebol Clube, and after excelling with them. signed with FC Barcelona, where he played from 2002-2004 with future NBA players like Juan Carlos Navarro and Sarunas Jasikevicius.
He was selected in the 2nd round by the Orlando Magic with the 30th overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, but he was traded later that offseason to the Cleveland Cavaliers before ever playing a game for the Magic.
His rebounding skills were evident from the beginning, ranking 4th in the league in offensive rebounds per 48 minutes as a rookie.
His Sideshow Bob hair made him instantly recognizable, and after a couple seasons of limited playing time, he began getting more opportunities on the court to perform.
He served as an important role player during LeBron James’ first stint with the Cavaliers, usually coming off the bench to play power forward or center and receive anywhere from 24-29 minutes per game.
In that allotted time, Varejao was good for about 7-9 points per game and about 7-8 rebounds per game.
After James left as a free agent during the 2010 offseason, the Cavaliers went through a drastic transformation as a team.
Varejao started seeing increased playing time as a regular starter, although injuries limited the amount of games he actually played.
His best statistical season has been 2012-2013, where he averaged 14.1 points per game and an incredible 14.4 rebounds per game.
However, he was only able to play in 25 games that season due to a blood clot appearing in his lung.
Before that, he had missed time in previous seasons with ailments involving a torn tendon in his ankle and a broken wrist.
During the 2014-2015 season, he tore his Achilles in December and missed the rest of the season. It’s not one lingering injury with Varejao. He seems to have the bad luck of getting hurt in multiple areas.
The injury concerns were especially frustrating because he always looked like he was ready to make that next leap forward, only to be impeded by affliction.
After 12 seasons with the team, Varejao was traded in February of 2016 to the Trail Blazers, who subsequently waived him.
Just a few days later, the Warriors signed Varejao to provide frontcourt depth. When the Warriors eventually met the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, Varejao was the first player in NBA history to play for both the Finals teams during the course of the season.
After the Warriors’ stunning loss after being up 3-1 in the series, Varejao boldly claimed that he wouldn’t accept a ring from the Cavaliers, even though he had played for them earlier that season.
It was an admirable stance, and I’m not sure I would have done the same thing if I were in his position.
If anything, it shows his commitment to the Warriors, and the confidence he has that this 2016-2017 Warriors squad is going to get him his first ring.
The depth chart indicates that Varejao is going to have an increased role on this team compared to last year’s bunch.
If Varejao can provide rebounding, occasional scoring, and play intelligent defense, all of which he has proven more than capable of, he’s going to leave a positive mark on the squad this upcoming season.