If the Warriors win back-to-back NBA titles, it won’t be because of Anderson Varejao. But there’s a very real possibility that if they do win another championship this year, you’ll look back and say: They couldn’t have done it without him.
Multiple reports have Varejao, a free agent after being bought out by the Portland Trail Blazers, signing with the Warriors once he clears waivers. He’s being called insurance, a third center, an extra body, the new Jason Thompson and other minimizing type of descriptions.
But Varejao could become a factor sooner rather than later for Golden State, which has quickly found themselves thin up front. Andrew Bogut sat out Saturday’s game against the Clippers because of a sore Achilles, and we all know his delicate injury history. And backup Festus Ezeli just had knee surgery and won’t even be looked at again for another five weeks. In other words, who knows exactly where those guys will be health-wise come playoff time?
When you’re 49-5, you don’t have a lot of deficiencies and vulnerabilities. But the teeny-tiny ones you do have, Varejao helps you address.
Varejao is a solid rebounder and a pretty good pick-and-roll defender, a coveted attribute in today’s NBA. He can pass a little bit and knock down the mid-range shot now and again. He’s an energy guy, active most of the time and he’ll make hustle plays for you. He’s been a pretty good free-throw shooter in the recent past, too.
Obviously, we’re not talking about an elite player here or he wouldn’t have been traded from the Cavaliers and then moved along by Portland. For one, he’s 33 years old. There are going to be plenty of nights where Varejao doesn’t play much or perhaps at all. And there are going to be other nights where he plays some but doesn’t make much of a contribution.
But I think there are going to be a handful of games that you look back on and say: “The Warriors might not have won that one without Varejao.” It’s also conceivable Varejao could start stealing some of Mo Speights’ playing time, and if you watch the Warriors a lot you know how much Speights can influence a game one way or the other.
It might even set up nice little competition among Speights, James Michael McAdoo and Varejao, all but assuring whichever one Steve Kerr would pick to play on a given night is going to be playing hard. Thompson figures to get waived by the Warriors, but he struggled in his short time here with limited minutes. If nothing else, Varejao will be an upgrade from that spot.
Whenever the Warriors make a move like this it’s always a good time to remind fans what owner Joe Lacob has done with the franchise. That an Anderson Varejao would come to Golden State to win a title was inconceivable 10 years ago. A decade ago, Varejao wouldn’t have come here at gunpoint. Just an incredible turnaround Lacob has orchestrated. The Warriors will also go a little more than $1 million deeper into the luxury tax with this move, something that doesn’t seem to matter one iota … of course, a good thing.
Varejao might not noticeably make the Warriors better than they already are. After all, they’ve only lost five times. But he certainly isn’t going to hurt.