Andy's curly Sideshow Bob spindles of hair bounce around like a thousand pogo sticks. His arms and legs incessantly windmill, from one endline to the other. He does Fosbury flops (without the Fosbury). He harasses opponents like a 6-foot-11, 260-pound mosquito that just won't go away.
Even the few mid-range shots that he takes are a study in perpetual movement. More fade-away set shots than jumpers, he seldom plants his feet long enough to be in total control, and his elbows fly out toward Tower City on each attempt.
You can sum up his style in six words: He's here, he's there, he's everywhere.
As one of the keys to the Cleveland Cavaliers' 37-11 record, Andy (aka "Wild Thing") is gaining notoriety as a bona fide candidate for the NBA's "Sixth Man of the Year" award. In some corners, "Defensive Player of the Year" is even being whispered. As Chris Mannix of SI.com has noted, "He's stronger than (Pau) Gasol, quicker than (Andrew) Bynum, and too physical for (Lamar) Odom" -- three of the mainstays of the world-champion Los Angeles Lakers.
A Brief History
Andy first came to the attention of pro basketball scouts while playing in the 2001 Goodwill Games for Brazil. He then participated somewhat successfully in the 2002 and 2006 World Championships.
The Orlando Magic drafted him in the second round of the 2004 draft, the 30th overall choice. He was traded to the Cavaliers with Drew Gooden and Steven Hunter for Tony Battie and two future second-round draft choices on July 23, 2004.
Before the 2007 season began, as an unrestricted free agent, Andy held out for more money. It wasn't until November that the Charlotte Bobcats signed him to an offer sheet for three years and $17.4 million. Days later, the Cavs wisely matched the offer.
Since then, Andy has been a steady performer. His relatively few highlights have been memorable:
April 12, 2009 - Gets tangled up with Boston's Ray Allen after a free throw. The flustered Allen, rising from the floor, delivers a dirty elbow directly to Andy's groin. Allen is suspended by the NBA for one game, forfeiting $167,000 in pay.
November 12, 2009 - Miami's Dwyane Wade posterizes him with a thundering dunk, captured forever on a YouTube video.
December 29, 2009 - Makes first three-pointer of his career (after going 0-16) with 17.2 seconds left (triple-zeroes on the 24-second clock) as Cavs whip upstart Atlanta 106-101.
January 21, 2010 - Gets an offensive rebound after LeBron James misses a free throw with 21.2 seconds remaining against the Lakers. Ron Artest then is called for a reach-in foul, and Andy makes both free throws for a 92-87 lead that spells the end for the Lakers. Final score: 93-87.
Brown Loves Him
Cavs head coach Mike Brown describes his versatile big man as a "glue guy": "[Andy] holds everything together. It doesn't matter what lineup is out there, you know that you can always go to him and he can keep it together.
"His awareness, especially when off the ball, has always been tremendous. [He] continues to not only defend, not only rebound and not only bring energy, but he's doing a nice job of taking good shots. His confidence grows every game on both ends of the floor, especially offensively.
"His mobility and agility gives other centers problems. He's just as big and physical as them. A lot of big guys, especially when LeBron (James) has the ball, pay attention to LeBron. Andy knows how to move without the ball and find spots where LeBron gets him the ball for high-percentage shots."
Andy is among the league leaders in plus-minus ratings (team scoring when said player is on the court). The Cavaliers most recently are outscoring their opponents by 14.6 points per 48 minutes with Varejao on the court. This has turned some heads nationally. Through last week, Andy's +345 was third overall behind the Lakers' Kobe Bryant and LeBron -- but his +.255 per minute was tied for first with Gasol.
Eduardo Afini, writing in BleacherReport.com last year, had some glowing observations: "He is the kind of player who knows how to play the game in a manner that is mostly perceived and appreciated by fellow players, opponents and coaches ... a master in one-on-one coverage, opening up spaces for teammates, drawing fouls and irritating his rivals."
Steve Jones of NBC Sports has named Andy to his all-tough-guy team. "He's high energy and hustling all the time," Jones says. "He rebounds and blocks shots. He dives on the floor. He makes endless attempts at drawing charges. What he does takes a toll mentally on his opponents, even if they are not directly responsible for being matched up against him. Mentally, he is tough. He'll be flopping, he'll run into opponents from crazy angles, he'll go in and grab someone. Eventually, he gets inside the heads of those playing against him. His attitude is he is just going to keep getting in an opponent's way."
ESPN.com's John Hollinger thinks that Andy may be the league's "Defensive Player of the Year." He writes: "Varejao has always been among the game's best front-court defenders, but have you seen the guy this season? He's moved beyond the Raggedy Andy flopfest of recent years to become a court-roving defensive monster. The shift in the game toward stretch-fours and pick-and-roll guards has only increased his value, as his freakish mobility for his size makes him one of the few players capable of both defending the post and smothering quick guards on switches. His activity rather than any one single part of his skill set makes him a major concern to opponents."
Anderson Varejao's minutes have increased this year, to 30.0 per game. He may be in the starting lineup, but he's invariably called upon during fourth-quarter "crunch time." He averages 8.3 points per game, 8.1 rebounds per game and a team-leading 2.6 offensive rebounds per game. He's shooting better than 50 percent from the floor.
And he's all ours, Cleveland.