The Cleveland Cavaliers had an impressive first round, swiftly closing out the Detroit Pistons in four games. Nearly every Cavs player had an efficient series as LeBron James did not carry the burden of dragging the team along. In fact, LeBron had his lowest playoff scoring output (22.8 points) since the 2010-11 NBA Finals vs. Dallas.
Kyrie Irving averaged 28 points on 47% three-point shooting. Kevin Love averaged 19 points and 12 rebounds on 39% from downtown. J.R. Smith contributed 14 points on 52% from three.
A Cavalier who has flown under the radar, however, is Matthew Dellavedova. In his 18 minutes per game, he shot 57%, averaged 10 points, and chipped in 4 assists.
Even more impressive? The Australian had one turnover in the whole series. That makes his playoff assist/turnover ratio a ridiculous 16. To put that in perspective, the highest assist/turnover ratio during the regular season was Mike Conley at 4.07.
It is easy to overlook Dellavedova’s importance to the Cavs because of abundant talent on the roster. Dellavedova also serves as Irving’s backup, and Irving had an exceptional four-game stretch. Well, at least on offense.
Irving is a notoriously weak defender and that remained constant during the series vs. Detroit. When being guarded by Irving, Detroit players shot 52% from the field, compared to 43% overall. Irving’s defensive struggles could be increasingly detrimental in the conference semifinals when he will spend time guarding an extremely shifty Jeff Teague.
Dellavedova is not the most athletically gifted player, but he is a scrappy player who leaves it all on the court. His defensive effort is important for the Cavs because both members of the starting backcourt (Irving and Smith) are offensive-minded players.
Fellow reserve guard Iman Shumpert is a defensive stopper, but he is an offensive liability. In the regular season, he averaged 24.4 minutes, but only 5.8 points because of 37.4% shooting (29.5% from three). The playoffs tell the same story, as Shumpert is averaging 2.5 points on 30.8% shooting.
Dellavedova is by far the most versatile guard that Cleveland rosters, making him a vital bench player.
|2015-16 Real Plus-Minus/Position Ranking||Offensive RPM||Defensive RPM||RPM|
|Kyrie Irving, PG||1.71 (14th)||-3.12 (82nd)||-1.41 (41st)|
|J.R. Smith, SG||2.17 (7th)||-1.47 (64th)||0.70 (17th)|
|Matthew Dellavedova, PG||1.52 (16th)||-0.51 (27th)||1.01 (17th)|
|Iman Shumpert, SG||-1.33 (66th)||1.72 (7th)||0.39 (20th)|
Dellavedova’s negative DPRM is not a concern, as that ranks 27th out of 85 qualified point guards. Irving’s DRPM, on the other hand, ranks 82nd.
When Dellavedova was on the floor vs. Detroit, Cleveland had a net rating of +13, compared to +5.5 when he was on the bench. In the playoffs, he has the ninth highest PER out of all players, and the second highest true shooting percentage of all point guards.
When Dellavedova came out of Saint Mary’s in 2013, NBA scouts and executives detected grit and discipline, but not NBA talent. As a result, he went undrafted.
The 2014-15 season was Dellavedova’s second in the league, and he had made a name for himself as a feisty Australian backup guard with a strong work ethic. His style of play led to controversy in the 2015 playoffs; he was involved in a play that injured Atlanta’s Kyle Korver, and plays that got Chicago’s Taj Gibson and Atlanta’s Al Horford ejected from key games.
The line between playing hard and playing dirty can be blurry. A big deal was made of these plays because few players compete like Dellavedova does. NBA athletes who constantly sacrifice their bodies and dive on the floor for loose balls are increasingly scarce in today’s game, which is why the world was quick to label Dellavedova as “dirty.”
Now in his third year, Dellavedova has built a skill set that allows him to be recognized for more than his toughness and aggression. He is now seen as an operative backup point guard who can shoot, dish, and defend with efficiency.
Cleveland may only go as far as LeBron takes them. But last year’s NBA Finals proved that The King cannot win a title without a viable supporting cast. With Love and Irving scoring well, and Dellavedova coming off the bench, the Cavs are one step closer to finding that winning formula.
photo via llananba