As the NBA D-League Showcase started on Sunday, a wide array of different NBADL prospects will have the opportunity to showcase their skills to a slew of NBA executives. One of the many D-Leaguers that will strut their stuff in the Biggest Little City in the World will be one of the more lethal defensive forces the NBADL has ever seen.
At a rather pedestrian 6'9, 220 pounds, Iowa Energy big Jarvis Varnado has become a nightmare for every player who tries to enter the paint as he leads the league with an awe-inspiring 4.9 blocks per contest.
Varnado has the unique ability to be a highly effective defensive player, which has been a trait of his since his time at Mississippi Valley State. In his four year college stint, Varnado was one of the more decorated front-court players in the history of the SEC. He broke the all-time NCAA leading shot blocker with 535 career deflections. In addition, Varnado is in extremely elite company , as he and NBA legend David Robinson are the only players to have reached the 1,000 point/1,000 rebound/500 block milestone.
After his record-breaking NCAA career wrapped up, Varnado was drafted by the Miami Heat. Despite being picked by Miami in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft, Varnado never ended up playing for Miami, as he worked his way around Italy and Israel during his first two seasons as a professional player.
Things changed for the better, when Varnado began the 2012-13 season with the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Mere weeks after Varnado made his D-League debut, the defensive big was picked up by the Boston Celtics.
As per usual for the majority of D-League call-ups, Varnado was cut from Boston before getting an opportunity to showcase his skills at the NBA level. That continued as Miami brought Varnado back to the team shortly after his release from Boston. While he ended the season being a member of a championship winning team, Varnado spent the majority of the season either sitting on the end of the bench or being assigned to Sioux Falls, where he continued to produce.
As Varnado enters Reno with an extremely talented Iowa team, the D-League vet will have the golden opportunity to showcase his stellar defensive skills. As apparent from the above video, Varnado has solid footwork and overall awareness to pounce on the cutting opponent. With a stellar 99.7 DefRtg, Varnado ranks as one of the most effective defenders in the D-League which should be appealing to the NBA executives who are in the market for a reserve big.
One of the possible contributing factors behind Varnado's struggle to stay in the NBA might be his limited offensive game. That's definitely a clear worry, as the big man has never really developed much of an inside or outside game during his career. As you can see from the video, the majority of Varnado's offensive input comes via offensive rebounds (averaging 3.3 ORPG) which is another example of how he plays the game with a high motor. While his bread and butter comes from how he crashes the offensive boards, Varnado has pretty nice footwork when he's working on the inside, which allows him to work his way around the rim.
As apparent from the call-ups of Dewayne Dedmon, Hilton Armstrong and Jeremy Tyler, NBA teams are always in pursuit of front-court players who can make a positive impact on the team. While Varnado's offense is definitely sketchy, his skills as a dominant defender should intrigue an NBA organization enough to give him another opportunity in the league.