The Boston Celtics hope they took a step toward improving their interior defense Sunday night, signing big man Jarvis Varnado from the D-League's Sioux Falls Skyforce. Terms of the deal, which has been finalized according to Varnado's agency, have not been disclosed.
Varnado, 24, averaged 14.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and a league-best 3.9 blocks during 10 games with the Skyforce. Concerns exist over whether Varnado can hold his own inside the paint at the NBA level -- at 6-foot-9, he weighs only 210 pounds-- but he's always been an elite shot blocker.
At Mississippi State, Varnado was a three-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year en route to becoming the NCAA Division I all-time leading shot blocker with 564. Drafted by the Miami Heat with the 41st pick in 2010, Varnado failed to make the regular season roster and hasn't yet played any NBA minutes.
On his Twitter profile, Varnado refers to himself as "King Swat," as good an indication as any that protecting the rim will be his primary focus with the Celtics. Possessing good athleticism, great timing and a 7-foot-4 wingspan, Varnado should stiffen Boston's struggling interior defense. It's unclear how he'll contribute in other areas, but the Celtics would surely be ecstatic if he developed into Greg Stiemsma 2.0 -- as a former Skyforce big man with an endless wingspan and a long history of erasing opponent's shots, Varnado shares a lot in common with the former Celtic.