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Fiscal Sanity, In the NBA No Less

Posted by Kelly Dwyer

It could happen. A player could actually sign a contract this summer that nearly approaches both his value in the open market, and his value as a contributor. On Thursday, Brian Windhorst of the Akron Beacon-Journal pointed out that Anderson Varejao has lost all leverage with the Cleveland Cavaliers. With the Orlando Magic handing out money to Rashard Lewis, the Memphis Grizzlies giving their cap space to Darko Milicic, and with the Milwaukee Bucks (striving to retain Maurice Williams, already employing the superior Dan Gadzuric; and that was not a joke) and Charlotte Bobcats (with frontcourt depth already in place) uninterested, Varejao can only sign a deal for however much the Cleveland Cavaliers (bidding against themselves) want to give him.

Of course, any team can offer Varejao the full midlevel exception, but the Cavaliers would quickly match. It's up to Cleveland to pass on throwing a million or two more (Darko-money) at Varejao when they can easily snatch him up for under six-million a season. As Chad Ford pointed out in his column, there's no reason for the team to be nicer than it has to be - and with huge gobs of money already flowing in LeBron James, Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas' direction, there's no reason to overpay for a big that might be a little overrated to begin with. Does anybody really see Varejao developing the sort of footwork and touch necessary to move beyond the type of player he was with the Cavaliers last season? Remember how Anderson played last season? That's who he is, for the next eight years. Yes, the jumper will be refined, he'll turn the ball over a little less, and the free throws (57.2 percent, career) will come around, but that's about it.

Seriously, compare Anderson's per-minute numbers (at age 24, last season) with those of Scott Williams' at the same age. Varejao averaged 11.3 points and 11.3 rebounds, with a block, for every 40 minutes he played last year. At age 24, Williams averaged 12.3 points, 13.2 boards, and nearly two blocks for every 40 minutes back in 1993. In 2007, do you really want to be handing eight-million a year to a B- version of Scott Williams, just because you can?