On July 23, 2004, the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired Drew Gooden and Anderson Varjeao in a trade with the Orlando Magic for Tony Battie and two second round draft picks.
For the next three seasons, Gooden and Varejao were teammates in Cleveland. Not only did they share time at the power forward position specifically, they also practiced against each other on a daily basis.
In 2007, when the Cavs advanced to the NBA Finals, they each played in 80 regular season games. That year Varejao averaged 6.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 0.9 assists on 47.6 percent shooting for the season in 27.5 minutes per night.
Back then, Andy was considered to be a "hustle guy", exclusively. A term that was used to suggest he didn't have any skills. Varejao wasn’t considered a project, or a young big with high upside, or anything like that.
But according to Drew Gooden, who I spoke with over the weekend, Anderson Varjeao has always been as skilled as he is right now. He was just forced to "sacrifice" for the betterment of the team.
Heading into the Celtics game, Varejao is averaging 14.1 points, 14.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists on 47.8 percent shooting from the floor this season.
He’s shooting 42 percent on 2.8 attempts per game from 16-23 feet specifically. In 2007, Andy averaged only 0.7 attempts per game from that distance.
To be honest, I’m bringing this up today, in part, to distract myself from the fact that the Cavaliers are 5-21 overall, play zero defense and are the worst team in the NBA in terms of field goal percentage allowed.
The other reason, though, as well as my driver for asking Gooden, is in search of an answer for the age-old NBA question: 'How much can a player actually develop after entering the NBA?'
I've heard Varejao's name thrown around lately as an example of that. If you ask Drew Gooden, however, he didn't really develop all that much.
He's always been this good. He's only now been afforded the opportunity to show those of us who never were in practice.