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Anderson Varejao

Can Varejao Play Big Minutes?



by Bob Chaikin


Bob Chaikin is one of the leading NBA statistical analysts, and webmaster of bballsports.com, which features incredible historical stats databases. He is also the creator and developer of the most powerful NBA simulation program available today that allows for large scale simulation of team and player performance under almost any conceivable scenario.


Anderson Varejao is a very good player - on a per minute basis. The computer simulation of nba games shows he generates wins on a per minute basis among the better half of all starting PFs in the league, in particular because of his defense, rebounding, high rate of drawing charges, and his ability to keep his turnovers per touch on offense low. It's been reported he has turned down a 5 year, $32 million contract ($6.4 mil/yr) and rumors are his agent is asking for upwards of $8-$10 million per year to stay with the cavaliers. The question is is he worth that much?...

One of the very first things that should be looked at statistically prior to signing players is their rate of committing fouls. Many players have been signed to large contracts in the past without this having apparently being taken into account (Jerome James, Jim McIlvaine, Calvin Booth, Stanley Roberts, and others), where the player's per minute stats were projected out to starter's minutes with this not having apparently been taken into account. Who wouldn't love to have a player of Varejao's talents? but then who ever would have thought he would have commanded, let alone received, such a high salary (if he is indeed asking for $9-$10 mil/yr)?...

Anderson Varejao has committed fouls at such a high rate in his short career that the statistical history of the league (the last 30 years of the league, since the 1977-78 season) clearly shows the odds are very much against a player committing fouls at his rate ever playing major minutes in a season, upwards of say 2400-2600 minutes in a season, let alone even 2200-2300 minutes in a season (and yes he did play 1932 minutes in 06-07). Here are Anderson Varejao's rates for committing fouls to date:

Varejao holdout for contract
  year-----min-----pf-----%PF
  0405---0863---122---14.1%
  0506---0760---118---15.5%
  0607---1932---269---13.9%
  3yrs----3555---509---14.3%

...and his 1st two seasons combined to compare to 06-07 (since the total minutes played are comparable, 1623 vs 1932):

year-----min-----pf-----%PF
2yrs----1623---240---14.8% (0405 and 0506 combined)
0607---1932---269---13.9%

So Varejao's career rate is 14.3 fouls committed per 100 minutes played, he committed 14.8 fouls per 100 minutes played his 1st two seasons in the league, and 13.9 fouls per 100 minutes played in 06-07. These are very high rates for committing fouls, such that the statistical history of the league shows that players committing fouls at these high rates have their playing time severely restricted. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and look just at his lower rate of 13.9 fouls committed per 100 minutes played in 06-07, knowing that he was worse prior to this...

Since the 1977-78 season (i.e. 29 seasons worth of statistical data), 2234 different players have played in the league, and have played 11436 player seasons (if a player played 5 years in the league that'd be 5 player seasons). Thus the average player has played 11436/2234 = 5.1 years in the league...

Of the 11436 player seasons since 1977-78, a player has played as many as 1900 total minutes in a single season (again Varejao played 1932 minutes in 06-07) 3614 times. But of those 3614 player seasons, only 104 times - including Varejao in 06-07 - did a player commit fouls at the rate of 13.5 or more per 100 minutes played in a single season (remember Varejao was at a bit more with 13.9 in 06-07, and 14.8 the two previous seasons), i.e. less than 3% of all the players who played 1900+ minutes in a single season (which includes Varejao) committed fouls at such a high rate...

Those 104 times that a player played 1900+ minutes and committed fouls at the rate of 13.5 per 100 minutes was accomplished by 71 different players, including Varejao (i.e. some of those players did it more than once, like Darryl Dawkins, Tree Rollins, John Salley, etc). now the career rate - not just the rate of these 104 players playing 1900+ minutes in a season with 13.5 or more fouls per 100 minutes played - but the career rate of fouls committed by this grouping of 71 players is 13.1 fouls committed per 100 minutes played (Varejao's career rate to date is 14.3). The lowest career rate among these 71 players is 9.5 fouls per 100 minutes played (robert parish) and the highest 17.7 (steve johnson). But of these 71 players only 26 had career rates less than 13%, i.e. close to 2/3 of these 71 players had a career rate of fouls committed greater than 13 fouls per 100 minutes played. Right now Varejao's career rate is 14.3 fouls per 100 minutes played, and he has committed fouls at the rate of 13.9+ per 100 minutes played for 3 straight seasons...

This group of 71 players played 753 player seasons. Of these 753 seasons, here is how many times the following total minutes were played in a single season:

-min----times---avg min/g
0001-----753--------24
0500-----651--------25
1000-----562--------26
1500-----438--------28
2000-----256--------31
2200-----187--------32
2400-----122--------33
2600-----058--------35

So you can see that Anderson Varejao, or any player who has committed fouls at the high rate Varejao has for 1900+ minutes in a single season (and Varejao committed fouls at the even higher rate of 14.8 per 100 minutes played his first two seasons in the league), has - based on the statistical history of the league - only a 438/753 = 58% chance of ever playing 1500 minutes in any single season (which he has done), just a 256/753 = 34% chance of ever playing as much as 2000 total minutes in any single season, and just a 122/753 = 16% chance of ever playing as much as 2400 total minutes in any single season, all because of his high rate of committing fouls...

Now Varejao could be the very first player to say commit fouls at the high rate of 14.3 per 100 minutes played his first 3555 minutes in the league and then go one to a long career committing fouls during the rest of his career at a much lower rate - say the low rate of just 7 or 8 fouls committed per 100 minutes played - but is that worth gambling something near $8-$10 mil/yr (or as much as $8-$10 mil/yr for 5 yrs at a total cost of $40-$50 mil) to find out?...

For players playing at least 1000 total minutes in a single season since 1977-78, here is the average playing time per game for players based on the players' rates of fouls committed (i.e. 1000/82 is just 12 min/g):

PFper100--------avg min/g
-----15------------- 15 min/g
-----14------------- 18 min/g
-----13------------- 23 min/g
-----12------------- 24 min/g
-----11------------- 26 min/g
-----10------------- 27 min/g
-----09------------- 29 min/g
-----08------------- 31 min/g
-----07------------- 31 min/g
-----06------------- 32 min/g

Right now after 3 seasons Varejao has committed fouls at the rate of 14.3 per 100 minutes played and has averaged playing just 19 min/g...

If during contract negotiations the agent for Anderson Varejao points out that as a starter playing 36 min/g Varejao would get something like 10-15 pts/g and 10 reb/g, the statistical history of the league shows that the odds are very much against Varejao ever even playing 36 min/g, let alone even more than 30 min/g, unless he substantially reduces his rate of fouling - and very few players have played 3555 total minutes in the league committing fouls at the high rate of 14 per 100 minutes played and then reduced that rate significantly later in their careers such that they could play as much as 30+ min/g in a season...


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