Throughout Anderson's career he's been somewhat dismissed as being simply a "nice piece" for a contending team. Which is basically because for all those years that's what his contending team needed him to be. But while he was that, and is still capable of being that if needed, he is also demonstrating right now that he can be more than simply that too. Anderson's game is not completely designed to only fit-in, and only compliment a collection of stars around him. His basketball IQ is high, he believes in teamwork, and if that's the way he best helps his team he'll gladly fill that role. But he can also lead from the front too, he's a competitor, and if I was to wake up one morning as a coach who needed to win one game later on that night or I'd surely get fired, say I woke up tomorrow as Mike D'Antoni, Dwight Howard is the only Center in the Eastern Conference I'd rather have on my team than Anderson Varejao right now. The only one.
Over at Waiting For Next Year, Scott has been pointing out the All Star qualities of Anderson Varjeao for a while now, and I agree with him. He mentioned yesterday at WFNY that Anderson is second in the Eastern Conference in rebounds per game (11.2), total rebounding percentage (21.0), and also has a lead in terms of total offensive rebounds and offensive rebounding percentage (16.6) right now too. So enter his points into my Andy Is An All Star Arguement here, and allow me to then add the following: Anderson Varejao is averaging more rebounds per game than any Eastern Conference Center not named Dwight Howard, he's averaging more steals than any of them as well, has a better PER number than Joakim Noah, and is scoring only eight tenths of a point per game less than Tyson Chandler too.
How Many All Star Spots Are Available: In 2011, there were two Centers named to the Eastern Conference All Star Team, Dwight Howard and Al Horford. In the Western Conference there were two players named as Centers alongside Yao Ming, who made it but didn't participate, in Pau Gasol and Kevin Love. So call it three in the Western Conference last season. In 2010, there were also three Centers listed on the Eastern Conference All Star Roster, with Dwight Howard and Al Horford again, along with David Lee. That year the Western Conference had three Centers too, in Pau Gasol, Chris Kaman, and Amar'e Stoudemire.
So I'm going to argue here that while Dwight is obviously in as one of the Eastern Conference Centers, there is room for one more Center for sure, but probably also a second one too behind Howard.
If there are three Centers named to the Eastern Conference All Star Team this season, I gotta think Varejao gets the nod if he keeps playing at his current pace for the next few weeks. If there are only two, one more after Dwight, it'll be close but even then I would objectively give it to Andy at this point; for the reasons of how good he's been, but also coupled with the fact that Al Horford is out and cannot play. If Horford was healthy, it'd be probably harder to make the case for Andy over Al, but he's not healthy. So he's out.
Potential Eastern Conference All Stars At Center: According to NBA.com, the leading vote getter's at the Center position after the second returns of 2012 NBA All-Star Balloting on January 19th in the Eastern Conference were as follows:
Dwight Howard (Orl) 1,161,797; Joakim Noah (Chi) 141,683; Tyson Chandler (NYK) 107,735; Joel Anthony (Mia) 67,210; JaVale McGee (Was) 41,249; Al Horford (Atl) 35,860.
Here are the numbers, as of Thursday night, for those on that leader board this season so far:
Joakim Noah: 7.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 0.6 stlpg, fg % .441, 15.51 PER, Games Played 19, Team's Record 16-4
Tyson Chandler: 10.6 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 0.9 stlpg, fg % .695, PER 19.63, Games Played 18, Team's Record 7-11
Joel Anthony (???): 3.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 0.8 bpg, 0.5 stlpg, fg % .531, PER 9.86, Games Played 18, Team's Record 13-5
JaVale McGee: 10.9 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 3.0 bpg, 0.9 stlpg, .517 fg %, 18.78 PER, Games Played 18, Team's Record 3-15
There are two other players I think should get considerably more attention than the fan balloting would indicate in addition to Varejao. They are Roy Hibbert and Greg Monroe, here are their numbers along with Andy's:
Roy Hibbert: 14.4 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 0.4 stlpg, .530 fg %, 22.06 PER, Games Played 17, Team's Record 12-5
Greg Monroe: 15.4 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 0.6bpg, 1.3 stlpg, fg % .514, 23.65 PER, Games Played 19, Team's Record 4-15
ANDERSON VAREJAO: 9.8 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 0.8 bpg, 1.4 stlpg, fg % .472, 17.55 PER, Games Played 17, Team's Record 7-10
To reiterate, Anderson Varjeao is averaging over one rebound per game more than anybody on this list not named Dwight Howard, he is averaging more steals than anybody on this list too, while also scoring in double figures. With the exception of Joel Anthony who actually stinks, only Joakim Noah and Roy Hibbert are playing on teams with better winning percentages than Anderson's Cavaliers are right now too.
And Varejao's game isn't really, or can't actually, be completely defined by statistics. It still isn't, and still can't be. There is no PER that would accurately measure the level of confidence that he's been able to help Kyrie Irving have when he steps onto the floor knowing that Anderson Vareajo running right there with him every step. There is no way to measure what it really means either for a guy who is seven feet tall to actually dive on the floor in attempt to secure a loose ball. Repeatedly. That's a long way down to the floor for the guys on this list. But Varejao does all that, always has, and his numbers are right there with anybody else you might think is more deserving this season too.
Except maybe Greg Monroe and Roy Hibbert. Maybe. I suppose you could also get carried away with JaVale McGee and his 3 blocks per game if you want, but his three win Washington team that just got their coach fired is a train-wreck, and he's a big reason why. So I have McGee behind Andy for sure. And while I respect what Greg Monroe is doing so far, and think that guy is going to be special one day, it's also only his second year. He averaged 9.4 points and 7.5 rpg as a rookie a season ago, and I'm going to need to pull that lifetime achievement card that's sometimes associated with NBA and MLB All Star appearances on Greg right now. I need to see a larger All Star caliber sample size from Monroe. If he plays like this ALL season, and then to start next season, and his team's maybe playing better than a 5-14 record, he can make it then I suppose.
Roy Hibbert is a tougher case for me to dismiss right now to be honest though. I like how Roy Hibbert has improved every single year since he's been at Georgetown, and he's like the anti-Kwame Brown as far as I'm concerned. We always hear about potential, development, and all that, and Hibbert is acutally literally doing that every season. He's a nice player, on a good team, and while he didn't exactly post these kind of numbers last season, he was pretty close with 12.7 and 7.5. I don't think he's an All Star lock though, and I kinda want to pull that lifetime achievement card on Hibbert too. Andy's been grinding in this League for a while now, and Hibbert's just getting started. He can go next year too, or along with Andy and Howard this season, but I'm not certain he should go over Varejao.
In fact, I don't think any Eastern Conference Center should go over Anderson Varjeao except for Dwight Howard right now. I think the numbers support that arguement too, but we'll see what happens. These next few weeks will go a long way towards helping make that case stronger for Andy. If he can get into the 10.5 or 11 points per game range, and keep those rebounds up over everybody else like they are right now, and continue to help the Cavs win some games, I think it's a very real possibility that Anderson Varejeao both could and should represent his Cleveland Cavaliers in the All Star Game next month.