Just three weeks ago, Tristan Thompson had the inside track to be the Cleveland Cavaliers’ starting center. Now days removed from his team’s regular season opener, though, coach David Blatt has gone a different direction. According to a report by Northeast Ohio Media Group, Blatt named Anderson Varejao Cleveland’s fifth and final starter.
It’s less than one week until the opener for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the final piece of the starting five has been revealed. Anderson Varejao will start at center alongside LeBron James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.
“We’re pretty clear on how we want to start and the way we’ve been playing is pretty much how we’re going to go,” Coach David Blatt said following practice on Friday. “We value them both in exactly the same way. Their contribution I hope will continue to be exactly what it was.”
This is the right call.
We made a lengthy case for Varejao when it became apparent Blatt was giving legitimate consideration to opening games with Thompson on the floor. As a defensive savant with underrated playmaking skills, the Brazilian veteran is simply a better in Cleveland’s star-studded starting lineup than the Canadian youngster. Blatt says that Varejao’s unique on-court rapport with LeBron James – built during The King’s first stint with the Cavs – helped tip the competition in his favor, too.
“That was more or less the idea of beginning with Andy just because those two guys are so good together,” Blatt admitted. “I think it really has a lot to do with fit. How Andy plays together with LeBron and the fact that Tristan can play coming off the bench. He’s pretty good at it.”
Thompson is still due a major role for Cleveland, of course. He’ll likely be Blatt’s first reserve off the bench, and is certain to close certain games depending on match-ups, too. This isn’t a demotion for the 23 year-old as much as it is an acknowledgement of how the Cavaliers’ talents can be best manifested on the court. For Thompson, that means he’ll often operate as an energetic, opportunistic scorer of units featuring another bench player.
The next step is keeping Varejao healthy. Given Wild Thing’s checkered injury history, Thompson better be ready to start at a moment’s notice.
Would you have started Varejao or Thompson?
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