Andy VarejaoTalkin’ Contracts

As I’m sitting here watching the Cavaliers take on the Golden State Warriors tonight, I decided now would be a good time to talk about a few issues I’ve been meaning to get to lately but have been unable to due to a busy work schedule in the past week. The first thing I wanted to discuss was the Cavs’ obvious two biggest topics lately, the Sasha Pavlovic singing and the Anderson Varejao holdout.

First off, I said I’d discuss my thoughts on Sasha’s signing once we knew the final numbers on his new contract. His new contract is as follows: The first 2 years are guaranteed, with Sasha bringing in $4.2 million in year 1 and $4.5 million in year 2.  The third season totals $4.95 million, but only $1.5 million of that is guaranteed. So in total, the contract is worth $13.65 million over 3 years, with only $10.2 million of that being guaranteed. So in total, the contract is closer to $4 million per year than $5 million per year. By no means is this a light contract. $4 million per year to a player of unknown potential is perhaps a bit much, but obviously it could have been worth a lot more. There’s been a lot of discussion as to which side blinked on this issue. I found it to be particularly interesting that even the Akron Beacon-Journal’s Cavs writers seemed to have pretty different takes as to which side won this battle. Patrick McManamon thinks the Cavaliers got the upper hand, writing:

“One day before the Cavaliers’ season starts, Sasha Pavlovic joined the fold.

In reality, what he did was fold.

Like an old pair of underwear.

The day before the opener, Pavlovic blinked, and agreed to a contract that will pay him between $4 million and $5 million per year.

It’s a good deal, and better than the one-year qualifying offer Pavlovic could have signed, but it’s also a deal he and his agent and the Cavs could have agreed to a month ago. All Pavlovic missed was a month of learning a new offense.”

Brian Windhorst seemed to have a bit of a different take, saying:

“The accord was the product of intense talks over the weekend as the Cavs pressed to get a deal done. The team is also believed to have intensified talks with their remaining restricted free agent, Anderson Varejao.”

So which side truly blinked first? Well, to be honest, I think this was a deal born out of mutual neccesity. The deal allowed Sasha Pavlovic and his agent to save some face, by being able to say they made the unprecedented move of turning down a qualifying offer and holding out as a restricted free agent. This was neccesary for them because, frankly, they had absolutely no leverage in the negotiations. For the Cavaliers, this was nexxesary because they needed to get Sasha on the court. Regardless of how good of a player Pavs really is, he certainly makes this team better than they are without him. In the end, the truth is, neither side so much blinked, but rather was finally willing to concede enough to get the deal done. As Windhorst wrote,

“According to insiders, the Cavs were willing to increase what they were offering Pavlovic in the first two years of the deal, but the third year of the pact is not fully guaranteed, which gave the Cavs the flexibility they were seeking in the talks with both Pavlovic and Varejao. Because of those terms, both sides were able to claim a victory after they’d been entrenched.”

So if I had to name a victor, I would actually say it’s probably more Pavs than Cavs. Pavlovic held out as a restricted free agent, and was able to get more money out of the Cavs than the qualifying offer that was tendered. Once again, Cavaliers general manager essentially was bidding against himself. He held all the cards and all the leverage, and he gave in a bit. The hope now is that Sasha can get back into the starting lineup and kick start this team similar to the way he did last year when he moved into a starting role. Pavs got the start tonight, as Larry Hughes is out with an injury. Otherwise, as I’ve said all along, the better route in my opinion would be to throw away this season and cut off the dead weight (including Pavs if need be) and keep clearing cap space to make a real splash in the free agent market over the next two summers.

What To Do With Mr Varejao

The second topic I wanted to discuss is what the Cavaliers should do about the Anderson Varejao holdout. According to SI.com today, Varejao is starting to make some concessions, being willing now to accept a 1 year deal for the mid-level amount of $5 million. Thanfully, it appears that Danny Ferry is not biting. What would be the Cavaliers’ incentive in accepting this? Other than the simple end goal of getting AV on the team ASAP, there’s no reason to give in to this. First of all, it allows AV to become unrestricted after this season. Second of all, is AV really worth $5 million this season? That’s the tricky question. Henry Abbott posted some information on some different metrics that are being utilized to gauge AV’s real worth, other than the standard box score methods everyone’s familiar with. Abott writes,

“But of course everyone knows that assessment is lacking. It’s lacking passing. It’s lacking defense. It’s lacking how well the guy sets a pick, or how many loose balls he collects. It’s lacking field goal percentage, decision making, shot blocking, closing out the shooter, fouling, turnovers, and a million other things. In fact, it’s only measuring some of the things things a player does within a second or two of some of the times someone shoots. The rest of the time the clock is ticking — points and rebounds measure nothing.

Can all that other stuff add up to be more important than points and rebounds? All those statistical experts are finding that, increasingly, the answer is yes.”

Henry’s not the only one who feels that Varejao offers more for the Cavaliers than most people realize. In his ESPN.com chat last week, Chad Ford said,

Chris (Broadview Heights, OH): Is there a sign-and-trade market out there for Anderson Varajoe at this point? However, I don’t think any team is dumb enough to give him 9-10 million a year.

SportsNation Chad Ford: You’d be surprised. Varejao is so important to the team on the defensive end — things that don’t show up in box scores. He’s big, he’s young, he’s athletic, and unlike so many other big men, he’s filled with energy. How many guys are there in the NBA like that? I think Memphis would’ve given him that if he wasn’t a restricted free agent. If Cleveland doesn’t want to pay him what he wants … that’s fine. It is a lot of money for a guy like that. However, to sit and do nothing makes no sense to me. If he wants that much and you don’t want to pay it, let his agent find a team that does (I’ve heard Fegan has several) and work out a sign-and-trade that brings back players you want. From what I’ve heard from a number of people, this is as much a Danny Ferry problem as it is a Dan Fegan/Anderson Varejao problem. The pride that’s getting in the way of making a great team goes both ways and with LeBron getting angrier and angrier, I don’t think it’s smart. Sometimes you pay a little more for a guy because he’s a great fit on your team. I think there’s no question that after LeBron, the most valuable young player on the team is Varejao.

A little later in the chat, Chad went even further:

Andrew: (New York, NY): Chad, With the way Cleveland’s front office has not helped LeBron’s team improve his chances of winning a title based on they’re handling of Varejao, is Cleveland endangering themselves of a potential Kobe Bryant-like fallout with King James in a few years before his 3-year deal expires?

SportsNation Chad Ford: I want to get back to this point with the Cavs. I think there are already signs that something is brewing. Now the truth is LeBron’s locked into a three year deal. He doesn’t have great leverage. But Danny Ferry’s track record hasn’t been great. He overpaid Larry Hughes, Damon Jones and Donyell Marshall. He gave Zydrunas Ilguaskas too many years. The team is capped out and on the verge of the luxury tax which has tied Ferry’s hands. And he’s not a great people person which I’m told has alienated some players in the organization. That sounds a lot like the Lakers … or the Timberwolves for that matter. With the LeBron the Cavs will always be pretty darn good. But good enough? I think they ‘ll take a step backward this year. 

Those are some pretty major points to take into consideration. Some people will say that this is precisely why the Cavaliers should just give AV the 1 year mid-level deal he wants and use his Bird Rights next year to sign him to a longer deal when he’s an unrestricted free agent next yeat. I disagree with this logic. I think AV’s value is precisely why the Cavaliers should stand firm and make AV sign a long term deal at an amount the Cavs want to offer. I know you don’t want to alienate the guy and make him unhappy to be playing for the team, but at the end of the day, Danny Derry isn’t in the business of making sure not to hurt feelings. The fact is, the Cavs hold all the power, and if AV wants to play in the NBA again, he better start thinking about sitting down with the Cavs and coming back to earth a bit. He’s not going to get $9-$10 million per year. He needs to realize this. But a 3-4 year deal at around $5-$6 million per year (4th year being team option) seems to be more than a fair deal for both sides, considering where the leverage in this deal lies.

And Larry Hughes?

Finally, one last funny thing to note. Gilbert Arenas has some advice for the Cavaliers on how to improve Larry Hughes’ production,

“I know Mike Brown came in and tweaked the defense and stuff like that, but if you want to utilize what Larry Hughes is, you need to open the floor and let them run more. With that team, your defense isn’t going to go anywhere. But you want to bring the tempo up. You keep hearing his name in trade rumors and fans going, “We want him out of here, he doesn’t fit the system.” Well, sometimes you have to change the system for your players. I know a lot of coaches say the players need to fit their systems, but sometimes you have to tweak the system a little too. It’s a 50-50 thing.”

Hmm, thanks for the advice Gilbert. He brags in the same post about how he made Larry Hughes such a better player. Well, maybe Gilbert would like to come play for Cleveland next year and show us how it’s done (making Larry Hughes good). Until then, perhaps Gilbert should stick to worrying about Washington’s pathetic start to the season. The only 3 people in the NBA who think Larry Hughes is a good player seem to be Danny Ferry, Gilbert Arenas, and Larry himself, although lately, even Larry looks like he’s doubting how good of a basketball player he really is.

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