- Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers (4-13) at Detroit Pistons (5-13)
- Date: December 3, 2012
- Time: 7:30 p.m.
- Television: FSD
What to look for
With the exciting Kyrie Irving injured, one would be tempted to think that the Cleveland Cavaliers hold very little appeal as it pertains to playing an interesting brand of basketball; but that would be inaccurate.
With Andrew Bynum injured and Roy Hibbert’s skills suffering from basketball amnesia, the title of best pure center in the Eastern Conference belongs to either Greg Monroe or Anderson Varejao. Consequently, the matchup tonight might go a long way towards shaping the opinions of fans and basketball analysts on the subject.
Several people out there are convinced that the Brazilian center is a one-dimensional player that is merely a decent defender, but to think such a thing would be completely out of left field.
The Cavaliers’ starting center is a great defender that provides terrific support to his teammates because of the multiple skills he possesses coupled with his basketball IQ. Indeed, Varejao has the foot speed to hedge, trap, double-team or simply switch on screens and stay with some of the most elusive perimeter players in the NBA.
In addition, he does a good job of coming out to help on defense as well as contesting shots, which makes it difficult for teams to score when he is on the floor. Also, Varejao rarely commits too early when rotating on defense, because he is aware that if he does, his man instantly becomes an available recipient for a pass and easy score. Thus, he waits until the last possible moment to rotate into the lane where he parks himself right outside the restricted area to draw charges. There are times when he arrives late, but he is so skilled at doing so that referees often give him the benefit of the doubt on the call.
On offense, Anderson Varejao is an excellent pressure release option because he can put the ball on the floor and also make excellent passes to players cutting to the basket. Consequently, he is a terrific pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop option given that he can catch the ball on the move and make quick decisions to feed open teammates.
His ability to pass the ball makes him a tricky player to defend because defenses are typically afraid of rotating their entire defense at him because that means it affords the Cavaliers the possibility of sharing the ball and getting high percentage shots as a result of passes from Varejao. Thus, Byron Scott forces his opponents to make decisions on how to defend his center — even though he’s not their man scoring option — and puts him in multiple screen-and-rolls. MySynergySports tells us that 30.8 percent of his field goal attempts come in those very situations.
There are times — hyperbolic statement alert — when the Brazilian looks like a poor man’s version of Arvydas Sabonis, as he feeds players for backdoor layups or finds cutters from the opposite side of the court from the post.
As ridiculous as the previous statement sounds at first glance, NBA.com’s advanced stats tool tells us that Cleveland scores 99.8 points per game over 48 minutes with Varejao on the court as opposed to an anemic 86.1 points per game over 48 minutes when he is on the bench.
With Irving out of the lineup, it’s safe to say that Anderson Varejao is the Cavaliers’ best player. This makes tonight’s matchup compelling from the standpoint that he will probably be defending Greg Monroe in one of the very few matchups of good centers playing head-to-head against each other.
Monroe versus Varejao might not sound like a glamorous center battle to many, but it might just be the best the east has to offer.
Read about the Cavs
Statistical support provided by NBA.com.