Golden State Warriors: What To Expect From Anderson Varejao

Oct 15, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Anderson Varejao (17) rebounds in the third quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 15, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Anderson Varejao (17) rebounds in the third quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

As the heavy favorites to win the 2016 NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors were one of two playoff teams that felt absolutely no pressure to make a move at the trade deadline. They’ve got a league-leading 49-5 record, they’re outscoring opponents by 11.5 points per game and they were the team that prompted so many other competitors to upgrade their roster at the deadline.

But, ironically enough, a trade made by the team Golden State would likely meet in the NBA Finals if they make it there — the Cleveland Cavaliers — may wind up supplying the Warriors with a little frontcourt insurance for Andrew Bogut and the injured Festus Ezeli.

In a three-team trade involving the Portland Trail Blazers and Orlando Magic, the Cavs acquired Channing Frye and a second round pick from Rip City. They sent Jared Cunningham to the Magic, and a 2018 first round pick (top-10 protected for two years) to Portland…along with Anderson Varejao.

Varejao was waived by the Blazers, with Portland stretching out his salary over the next five years. Upon clearing waivers, The Vertical’s Shams Charania reported that he had agreed to a deal with the Warriors Sunday evening. According to Charania, the team’s title hopes and Varejao’s friendship with fellow Brazilian teammate Leandro Barbosa helped seal the deal.

The San Antonio Spurs had also been pursuing Varejao, but he ultimately went with the Warriors. To make room for Wild Thing, the Dubs opted to cut the rarely used Jason Thompson.

The question is, what can the 12-year veteran still offer Golden State after spending the first 11 and a half seasons of his career with the Cavaliers?

At age 33, Varejao’s value has never been lower. Coming off last year’s Achilles injury, Wild Thing has averaged a negligible 2.6 points and 2.9 rebounds in 10 minutes per game, appearing in only 31 games for the Cavs this season. He shot 42.1 percent from the floor and failed to crack the frontcourt rotation, with Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov getting the lion’s share of the minutes.

Varejao’s numbers are barely better than what Thompson — 2.1 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 47.6 FG% — was putting up in his limited action with the Warriors. At this point in his career, it just wouldn’t be realistic for any contender to rely on Andy as a significant contributor come playoff time.

However, this acquisition isn’t about addressing an area of need as much as it’s about providing insurance in case the frontcourt absolutely needs it.

Bogut, who had his best injury-free season in years last season, is currently dealing with a minor Achilles issue. Ezeli, his backup that filled in admirably as the starter early in the season, has missed the team’s last nine games with a knee injury and might not be back until the last week of the season.

Considering his extensive injury history, the Dubs’ only two centers are both banged up and not exactly reliable when it comes to their health. Enter Varejao, Golden State’s minimum-salaried insurance policy.

The Warriors are at their deadliest when they trot out that lineup of death with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green.

But there’s a reason Golden State only unleashes that lineup in short spurts near the end of each half: it takes a physical toll on Green, Barnes and Iggy, and over the course of a full 48-minute game, that blitzing scoring attack might be hard to sustain given how tiring it’d be for the undersized wings on the defensive end.

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  • The “Death Lineup” has outscored opponents by a ludicrous 127 points in 130 minutes of action this season, but that only averages out to 4.8 minutes per game. Small-ball is the Warriors’ patented, unstoppable trump card, but even with guys like Brandon Rush and Shaun Livingston filling in for injured members of that lineup, there’s a reason head coach Steve Kerr doesn’t just resort to small-ball units all game long.

    In the short-term, Varejao will help stem the tide of frontcourt injuries, even if he’s not exactly the most reliable guy when it comes to his injury history either. Dating back to the 2011-12 season, Varejao has missed 192 of a possible 364 games due to injury.

    However, Andy is an experienced veteran who’s been a contributor for a few championship contenders. He averaged 14.1 points and 14.4 rebounds per game in his best year in 2012-13 before injury ended his season after just 25 games, and he holds career averages of 7.6 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.

    The Warriors have become Spurs-like in their ability to convert no-names and minimum contributors into decent role players, and at this stage in his career, Varejao probably couldn’t ask for a better situation than the one he’s joining now.

    With his tenacity on the glass and respectable basketball IQ, Varejao will be a perfect fit for the high-powered Dubs, who won’t need him to do much more than log 15-20 minutes a night, hold down fort on the boards, make a few smart passes and knock down a few wide open layups here and there until Bogut and Ezeli are back.

    More hoops habit: 2016 NBA Trade Deadline: Grades For All 30 Teams

    Anderson Varejao might be a shell of the player he once was, but as long as he can stay healthy enough to reduce the physical toll on Golden State’s shorthanded frontcourt, this is a win-win for a team that has the luxury of only needing him for short-term insurance.