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2015-2016 Season Review: Anderson Varejao

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Oklahoma City Thunder v Golden State Warriors - Game Seven Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

As we continue to close the casket tie a tidy little bow on the 2015-2016 season before the insanity of free agency commences, we have one last free agent player review to get through: that of Anderson Varejao, the trade deadline reinforcement and pièce de résistance of a team playing the Greatest Season of All Time. This should be a regular can o’ corn, or whatever those baseballers say. Right?

Wait — what’s that noise? Sounds familiar... Is... Is that...

!!! HOT TAKE ALERT !!!

Signing Anderson Varejao cost the Warriors the 2016 NBA Championship!

Holy smokes, that came out of nowhere! Sorry — I haven’t written an article on GSOM since November or something, so I’m all jacked on writer’s adrenaline. We’ll come back to that.

Looking back to February, the Varejao signing made a heap of sense. Injuries to Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, and James Michael McAdoo had ravaged the Warriors front court; Andy seemingly had a useful skill set as a high-post screener and passer; he was available, which, while possibly portentous, is nevertheless a requirement; and perhaps most titillatingly, he was a lifelong Cleveland Cavalier. Surely he had kept a journal with juicy little nuggets of wisdom on how best to beat LeBron and co! I mean, not that we would need it, of course. (In retrospect, they probably shouldn’t have set that journal on fire like a 2007 James jersey.)

So, how did this lucky lap-drop of a player fare in his 22 regular season games with our heroes? Thankfully you already know the answer, so we don’t have to dwell on it for too long.

Not much was expected of the fallback center, and not much was received. Varejao showed flashes of defensive energy and hustle, a willingness to hit the deck for loose balls and in floppy efforts to draw charges, and he was a pretty good cheerleader from the bench. He was a big negative on offense, finishing with a .477 TS%, and he never quite picked up the timing of an offense predicated on understanding off-ball movement and spacing. And, you know, whatever — again, ultimately there were very few expectations. He averaged 8.5 minutes per game, and he was playing for a team with an historically dominant offense. It’ll wash out, no harm done.

Or was it!? Remember that hot take alert? Do you also remember that 99% of hot takes are also hot garbage? You’ll forget about this post as soon as free agency opens so I don’t really care.

Varejao sunk the Warriors’ championship hopes. There are two reasons for this, listed in order of importance:

  1. Dan Gilbert scrawled ancient evil runes in Comic Sans on Varejao’s back which cursed the Warriors to an eventual Finals defeat;
  2. Varejao gave Steve Kerr an alternative to Festus Ezeli in the playoffs.

Festus is, by nearly all measures, a superior player. He’s more efficient offensively. He’s more stout defensively. He’s a better rebounder. He’s younger and more active. He runs the floor better, finishes better, he’s stronger, his hair isn’t silly, and he’s still learning as an NBA player. He didn’t improve this year as much as I’d hoped and expected, and there may be some coachability concerns simmering on the back burner, but he gives you a better chance to win than Varejao, now and into the future.

And yet, during the playoffs, a time during which most coaches shorten their rotations and keep guys like Varejao on the bench, Kerr would become impatient with the inconsistent play of Ezeli and try his hand at Varejao instead. And while my hot take is a terrible joke, I do believe that Kerr’s displayed lack of trust in Ezeli could do nothing but hurt them, especially in a Finals during which Varejao averaged 7 minutes per game. Both guys were downright atrocious in the series, don’t get me wrong. But why was Varejao in there at all? Shouldn’t that atrocity have been Ezeli’s alone to undertake? Would he have performed better if he felt the confidence of his coach, if he didn’t fear a quick yank at the most minor of indiscretions?

Since it’s impossible to prove me wrong, I say with absolute assurance: Yes! If Ezeli had played Varejao’s minutes in the Finals, we’d all be toasting a two-peat right now! I wouldn’t have this lump in my heart or this putrid stench of loserdom wafting from my Warriors-branded gear! Damn you, Varejao! Damn you, Gilbert! Damn you, Comic Sans!

In conclusion, I do not expect the Golden State Warriors to re-sign Anderson Varejao during the 2015-2016 free agency period.

Epilogue

I don’t think I’ve fully recovered from Game 7.