Dec 7, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic (14) looks to drive to the basket past Cleveland Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao (17) in the second half at Target Center. The Minnesota Timberwolves won 91-73. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Anderson Varejao Trade Rumor: Does It Make Any Sense?


Over the past few weeks, the Anderson Varejao trade rumors have persisted. Of course, tracing these rumors around in circles makes it look like this rumor is based on little more than the fact that Cleveland contacted the Wolves to gauge their interest in Varejao. In other words, nothing is imminent. The Wolves will not be trading Kevin Love for Sideshow Bob, so the only trade chips with value in the this situation are Derrick Williams and Nikola Pekovic, with Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea holding some value as complimentary pieces.

There are multiple angles to this rumor, but let’s start by discussing whether Varejao is an upgrade from Pekovic with the Wolves current roster. The short answer: no. While Varejao is probably about Pekovic’s equal as far as overall on-court value, Varejao does not necessarily make the Wolves’ current team any better. Pekovic’s two main strengths are efficient, low-post scoring and offensive rebounding. Varejao does not score often in the low-post, but is actually an even better offensive rebounder than Pekovic (Varejao leads the league by collecting a staggering 16.8% of offensive rebounds while on the court), and scores a significant amount of his baskets on the offensive glass.

Varejao is a better defender than Pekovic, but since Pekovic dropped weight over the off-season and has been working with the Wolves’ coaches to improve his defensive positioning (and stopped committing so many fouls), he has actually been serviceable in defending opposing big men. While Varejao has the reputation of being a significantly better defender, he actually does not block that many more shots than Pekovic. In fact, his career block rate (2.0%) is lower than Pekovic’s (2.2%).

To recap, the only way that Varejao would improve the Wolves are in two areas that Pekovic is already pretty good: offensive rebounding and defensive positioning. The offensive drop-off from Pekovic to Varejao, however, would be massive. On the one hand, putting a low-usage, defensive-minded center next to Love is intriguing. David Kahn, of course, tried the bouncy, athletic version (Hollins, Randolph) and the high-usage version (Darko) of “defensive-minded” centers. Of course, actually acquiring good players is the key here, as the premise isn’t terrible.

From a contract standpoint, this trade actually does make some sense. Pekovic is a restricted free agent, and is likely to get a maximum offer of 4 years at more than $10 million per year from another team. There have been rumblings that the Wolves’ front office is not likely to fork over this kind of a deal, either because they don’t believe that he is worth it (they would be wrong) or because owner Glen Taylor is trying to sell the team and does not want too many long-term deals on the books (more likely). Varejao is locked up for two more years at a total cost of about $18.75 million (the third season is only partially guaranteed). This is a very good deal for an above-average 30 year-old center, and is better value than Pekovic would be on a max contract.

If for whatever reason the Wolves’ front office knows that Pek will ask for $10m+/yr on the open market (and the Wolves’ know they won’t pony up), then a deal for Varejao is not an absolutely horrible move. Of course, this deal makes zero sense with Kevin Love out, as Pekovic is currently the team’s best and most efficient source of offense. If both Pekovic and Williams are traded for Varejao right now, the Wolves will lose essentially all of their offensive production. If Love was healthy (and again, they knew they were losing Pekovic), than a trade wouldn’t be absolutely horrible.

What would I do? I’m glad you asked. I would offer Derrick Williams and Luke Ridnour for Anderson Varejao and Alonzo Gee. I would not trade Pekovic at this juncture, and if the Cavs refuse to take Williams, I would hang up the phone. A Love/Varejao/Pekovic big man rotation would be not only bruising but virtually unstoppable, and paired with a healthy Chase Budinger and Andrei Kirilenko on the wings, this team would likely make some serious playoff noise. Here’s hoping Mr. Taylor has not informed Kahn that Pekovic cannot be extended at more than $10 million per year….

Tags: Anderson Varejao Cleveland Cavaliers Derrick Williams Minnesota Timberwolves Nikola Pekovic

  • http://www.facebook.com/brent.bruner Brent Bruner

    Really I don’t think you can make any trades right now. We don’t know about ricky’s development yet so getting rid of luke or jj is not a good idea. Love being hurt getting rid of our only offensive big man would be aweful. I think this year we got to play with what we have and then see after the season where we stand. That being said I think varejao would be a great piece for this team but it might not be in the cards

  • roland major

    Varejao is better than Pek right now. You definitely understated the difference in their defense (there’s more to D than blocks..). Pek is 3 years younger though. Overall I agree, it boils down to guessing what kind of offers Pek will get in the offseason.

    • http://twitter.com/bbeecken Ben Beecken

      This point is certainly debatable. Also, the article included this phrase:

      To recap, the only way that Varejao would improve the Wolves are in two areas that Pekovic is already pretty good: offensive rebounding and defensive positioning.

      Clearly, I’m not overvaluing blocks. Varejao is certainly a better defender than Pekovic. My point is that it isn’t by as much as many seem to think. Put simply, the gap between Pek’s offense and Andy’s offense is greater than the gap between Andy’s and Pek’s defense.

  • co811809

    As a Cavs fan this is ridiculous. Varejao when healthy is the best center in the East and this is coming from Byron Scott (I know he’s his coach but hes a highly respected coach) he was averaging 15 & 15 which hasnt been done in a decade. I know nothing about Pek but he seems very solid. Varejao has been hit with injuries a lot and if you would have mentioned that more I would have agreed. He is 100% better on offense this year than years past, a great defender, and the best rebounder in the league. I want to know what type of drugs you’re on if you think you are getting Varejao for Derrick Williams and Ridnour let alone Gee. Theres a reason it would be Varejao for Williams, Pek, Ridnour, and Barea potentially. Also Varejao and Love on the court at the same time might be the best rebounding team in history. Kyrie and Varejao when on the court are an unbelievable one two punch and I’m sure Rubio and him would develop well. He is our second best offensive option on the team. If this trade goes through I’ll give you two weeks of a healthy Andy with Love out and see if you still think you would have no offense and if you still think it would be bad for you…. I do NOT want to trade Andy this article helped me a little bit seeing how excited you guys are about Pek

    • http://twitter.com/bbeecken Ben Beecken

      I never said that I think the Wolves are getting that deal. I said that I would offer it if I were them. It probably would get rejected.

      Pekovic’s season last year was as good or better than any of Varejao’s, including the current season to this point. A Williams/Pek/Luke/JJ trade that you mentioned would be absolutely atrocious, not to mention not possible (the Cavs would take back too much salary). The Wolves will not give up both Pekovic and Williams for Varejao.

      • co811809

        Simply not true. Varejao has been hurt like I said but he was better than Pek last year when he was healthy no questions asked. He’s been one of the top 5 rebounders in the league the past two seasons, an excellent defender, and as much as you dont think so hes been better than Pek offensively. He is one of the most underrated players in the league because he’s been in Cleveland. When Cleveland got camera time (Lebron era) Varejao was soo much worse than he is now, he was atrocious offensively he has gotten 200% better. Ask any Cavs fan, even ones who are very aware of Pekovic’s skills and they would say it would have to be D-Will, Pek, and draft picks or we walk, and there is a reason for that. You say Varejao is better at the two things Pek is good at. To me thats like saying you wouldn’t trade Ben Gordon for Kobe because the things he is good at (scoring) is the same things Kobe is good at. Andy is a much much better rebounder BEST in the entire NBA (especially offensive rebounding), that includes your guys K-Love, and hes way way better defensively than Pek.

        • http://twitter.com/bbeecken Ben Beecken

          By what measure was Varejao a better player than Pek last season? I’ll use WS/48 to take out the less games played factor.

          WS/48: Pekovic .170, Varejao .131

          Look, it’s definitely close. And I’m not sure that one can make a definitive statement about who was/is the better player. Their both in that Tier 1b of centers in the NBA, after Chandler, Marc (and maybe Pau) Gasol…and that’s pretty much it. Bynum and Howard when healthy, obviously.

          It’s all moot anyways with the injury to Andy, but in a vacuum, Pekovic is the better player.

  • Eric

    Anderson Varejao > Luke Ridnour
    Alonzo Gee > Derrick Williams

    So tell me why in the world Cavs would even stay on the phone with you if you proposed this deal to them. You’re completely undervaluing Varejao. Wolves are going to lose Pekovic in free agency next year, so you’re basically sending us Williams whose barely gets any PT for Varejao.

    • http://twitter.com/bbeecken Ben Beecken

      Why would Williams’ PT for the Wolves have any effect on this trade? That information is irrelevant, and exactly why the Cavs might want Williams. He needs an opportunity; that much is obvious.

      And I’m not saying that the Cavs would make that trade. I’m simply saying that if they don’t, then the Wolves shouldn’t trade for Varejao. Pekovic for Varejao in a vacuum (ignoring contracts) is a downgrade for the Wolves. I would offer that trade as the Wolves, and cut off talks if it is indeed rejected.

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