The trade deadline coming and passing doesn’t mean it’s an end to transactions this NBA season. Players like David Lee and especially Anderson Varejao, who has the Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder interested in him, are now available for free, and aren’t going to end up without a team before the playoffs.
Veterans who don’t get minutes and cost too much money. After missing most of last season, Varejao simply didn’t have too much of a place on the Cleveland Cavaliers, averaging just 10 minutes in 31 games this season, getting quite a lot of DNP or short, forgettable cameos during garbage time. He was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers as part of the deal that got the Cavaliers Channing Frye, but the Blazers released him, as Varejao’s 2016-2017 part of the remaining contract wasn’t guaranteed.
The Brazilian center has been with the Cavaliers since day 1 for him in the league, starting out in 2004. He averaged 2.6 points and 2.9 rebounds per game this season, by far the lowest impact he’s had on the team since entering the NBA. The Brazilian big man intends to spend the weekend and maybe a few more days to wrap his head around what just happened, which basically is being let go by a team he played 591 games for over the years. He shouldn’t be that surprised. The Cavaliers have been looking into ways to move him since before the season even began due to his declining ability, questionable health and movable contract.
The Warriors, losing Festus Ezeli for the next six weeks and maybe more, need some big body to cover for him and after not looking into anything during the trade deadline days, are hoping Varejao can be someone they enjoy. The same goes for the Spurs, Thunder and Mavericks, who see Varejao as someone who can give them some defense, experience and rebounding in 10-15 minutes a night he’ll be playing in, although he might find himself sitting a lot of minutes and games without seeing any action. Maybe being part of a title run will make it easier to endure.
One player who is in a similar situation is David Lee, released by the Boston Celtics who tried involving him in all of their trade talks but failed. Lee was hoping for his career to bounce back as he got traded away by the Golden State Warriors but his problematic defense and not fitting in with what Brad Stevens wants from his big men, and maybe having a skillset that is a little bit obsolete in today’s league, led Lee to playing less and less minutes, eventually finding himself being inactive for the last 18 games.
He wasn’t bought out but waived, and because it happened before March 1, he can sign with anyone except for the Warriors and still be in the playoffs. Right now it seems the Mavericks are showing more interest than anyone in signing him, hoping that his ability to put up quick points (7.1 points in 15.7 minutes per game this season) and do well on the boards can work for them, not just getting them into the playoffs but maybe even getting through a round, something that hasn’t happened since 2011. Lee, unlike Varejao, might take some less time figuring out what’s going on and sign with a team as soon as possible.