As the Cleveland Cavaliers begin training camp this season, they are without two of the important pieces to their Eastern Conference Championship from a year ago. Sasha Pavlovic and Anderson Varejao, the Cavs’ two restricted free agents, continue to wait and try to get more money from the Cavs. According to an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the agents are looking for some pretty hefty contracts for their players. Pavlovic reportedly wants a deal for five years and in the range of $25 and $30 million. Varejao reportedly is looking for roughly $65 million over five years. While all Cavs fans want to get these two guys in camp, I applaud Danny Ferry and the Cavs for not acting desperately and signing these guys to those kinds of contracts.
This is not to say that I don’t like Varejao and Pavlovic. They are good young players that continue to improve with every minute of experience. Still, to think that they are worth these kinds of top dollars coming off of their rookie contracts is pushing it. These guys, for the most part, have come off the bench during their respective careers. While Pavlovic had some time starting in Cleveland’s run last year, he got that chance largely due to injury. He still had some serious inconsistencies and had to be sent to the bench partway through many first half performances. Similarly, Anderson Varejao was a role player subbing in a three-man rotation between the center and power forward positions. He never made serious offensive contributions and while his hustle is impressive, he is a couple of rule changes away from hurting the team with his incessant flopping as he attempts to take charges.
While it would be nice to have these two guys back with the Cavaliers, at this point in their careers, they are still to be considered role players. Role players who want big money are big-time traps. If a team ends up paying them huge money and then they don’t turn out to be starters they kill you three-fold. First they aren’t contributing enough on the court to justify their salaries. Second, they chew up valuable salary cap space and/or cost you a ton of money in luxury tax if you are over the cap number. Third, they are generally tough to trade. The perfect example of this is Larry Hughes who has never been as productive for the Cavs as his cap number, somewhere in between $13 and $14 million per year.
Kudos to the Cavs and Danny Ferry for holding strong and not bending to the will of these players’ agents. There is a fair number out there for these two guys to balance the risk of them maxing out their potential and the Cavs paying solid NBA wages and hopefully they figure out the extremes of that comfort zone for both the team and the players. If they can’t find that balance there are always other options like sign-and-trade deals with other teams to bring different talent into the Cavs system and also allow the players to play for a team that can afford to risk more in salary to find out if they will become big-time NBA starters. But kudos to the Cavs and GM Danny Ferry for not selling out the franchise’s future. I am sure it isn’t easy to watch the team come into training camp without two key components to last year’s run to the NBA finals.