The Unlikely Bobcat, Anderson Varejao

UPDATE: The Cavaliers have already matched, after cutting Demetris Nichols to create a roster spot. ESPN's Ric Bucher explains why this is not such a great deal for Cleveland. On the other hand, says Yahoo's Johnny Ludden, Ferry can also be seen as the victor, as he got his man without caving to agent Dan Fegan's demands.

This Anderson Varejao signing an offer sheet with the Bobcats thing has been incredibly bizarre.

This morning, though, it seems less bizarre to me.

First of all, let's be clear: the Bobcats are desperate for a big man. They started the season with Sean May and Primoz Brezec as key bruisers. Now May is injured and out for the season and Brezec has not been on form.

Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer explains that in theory at least, there is at least some chance Varejao would actually join the Bobcats:

With center Primoz Brezec struggling, coach Sam Vincent went to a small starting lineup in Toronto with Emeka Okafor at center surrounded by 6-7 forwards Gerald Wallace and rookie Jared Dudley. Vincent told the Observer on Monday that adding Varejao could be the difference in whether the Bobcats make the playoffs this season. ...

Cleveland's best proposal offered Varejao more money than the Bobcats did. However, Cleveland wanted a deal that guaranteed it had him for at least three seasons. Under terms of the Bobcats' offer sheet, sources say, Varejao could become an unrestricted free agent in as little as two seasons.

There was some reason to think the Cavaliers might blink and let the Bobcats have Varejao: The Cavaliers have exceeded the luxury-tax threshold, so they will pay a dollar-for-dollar penalty to the league for adding Varejao. In other words, his $5.3 million contract will cost the Cavs $10.6 million.

Brian Windhorst of the Akron Beacon-Journal joins ESPN's Chris Sheridan among those with Cavalier sources saying that Cleveland will match the offer -- but Windhorst writes that it will take some fancy footwork:

Because Varejao is a restricted free agent, the Cavs have the right to match the offer in the next seven days. The team did not make a public comment Tuesday because the offer sheet did not arrive by the end of business.

But team sources said the Cavs will match the offer and Varejao will likely be with the team within the next week.

However, there's a chance the team will wait a few days to do so as it evaluates options with the roster. The Cavs currently have the maximum of 15 players on the roster and would prefer not to cut a player, so they might seek to move a player or players through a trade before matching the offer.

There have been plenty of offers and supposed offers by the Cavs and Varejao since July. Tens of millions of dollars apart when talking about four- or five-year deals, the sides eventually started focusing on the length of the contract more than dollars. This is largely because Varejao's side seemed more focused on when he could become a free agent again instead of the value of the contract.

ESPN's Chad Ford says this deal will probably end up being the best possible for both Varejao and the Cavaliers:

Varejao didn't want to sign a long-term deal that he felt was below his market value. The Cavs didn't want to overpay.
Given this deal, if Varejao is as good as he believes he is, he'll have another shot to get big money in the summer of 2009.

And if the Cavs bring Varejao back and he continues to be just a role player, the team didn't do anything to harm its long-term cap position, because Varejao will be a free agent in 2009 or 2010.

The question remains, however: Will the Cavs match?

It appears so. If the Cavs were willing to offer him a 5 year, $32 million deal, why not sign him for 3 years, $17 million?

Thanks to the countless restrictions, NBA free agency could hardly expect to be the most efficient market out there. But in this instance, through all the bizarreness, getting a feel of what the open market will bear -- and I have to believe this is a sincere offer from Charlotte -- has proved to be a useful tool in setting a player's realistic price.

My only concern: I hope Anderson Varejao is in shape -- because whichever team he is playing for next week could really use him on the floor immediately.