Matthew Dellavedova Returns But Will He Get Minutes?

The Cavs re-signed Matthew Dellavedova to a one year deal assuring Cleveland fans that one of their favorite players will return to the roster. The re-signing of  Dellavedova keeps last year’s team intact but invokes questions regarding the role Dellavedova will have this season outside of the necessary if-Kyrie-gets-hurt insurance policy. How much time will Dellavedova realistically play?

The Cavs tipped their hand when they signed Mo Williams this summer. Weak in the backcourt, the Cavs were deseprate for a point guard who could compete in the NBA Finals and play a lot of minutes while taking on scoring and playmaking responsibilties. They had to have a third offensive creator who could take over the offense.

Mo Williams is an experienced, skilled combo guard who can run the team when Kyrie Irving is either on the bench or out with an injury. Williams isn’t the gritty defender and hustle player Dellavedova is but on offense he is a playmaker, he makes his teammates better with his passing skills, court vision and ability to get into the lane and finish through contact.

Mo Williams and LeBron James were drafted in the same year (2003) and are beginning their 13th NBA season. Williams has played for 7 different organizations in both conferences, has seen almost everything. He has been in every NBA situation- winning and then losing- except he has never participated in the NBA Finals. Williams played with LeBron James then Chris Paul and three years later he is reuinted with James again.

In his career Mo Williams is averaging just a little under 30 minutes a game. His combo guard skills means the Cavs can go small late in games and play Irving and Williams together and have two perimeter scorers and ball handlers and playmakers on the floor. In the backcourt, the Cavs are a better team than they were last year because of their offensive versatility.

The reality of the Mo Williams acquisition is the calculus of Mo Williams. He’s going to get a lot of time on the floor. All of a sudden Dellavedova’s minutes are suspect. Where does he exactly fit if Irving stays healthy? A healthy and active Mo Williams coming in for Irving means Dellavedova’s presence is reductive, participatory when there are blow-outs. The Cavs just signed Richard Jefferson plus they re-signed James Jones and they re-signed Iman Shumpert and more than likely will re-sign J.R. Smith. They have enough shooting guards so their backcourt is particularly crowded.

Matthew Dellavedova is one of those NBA players who learned that how you get in the league is not how you stay in the league. To distinguish yourself in ways other players just don’t want to do is the ticket to relevance. Dellavedova’s effort on defense and his willingness to play hard on every play keeps him on rosters. What he lacks in athletic talent he makes up in willful aggression as a defender. With his rough and tumble style he can frustrate (and irritate) his opponents but as Steph Curry showed, talented stars usually figure out how to beat Dellavedova in the end.

All roads point to David Blatt here. In his rookie year he made some glaring missteps particular with his rotation and he even admitted he anticipated the NBA to be an easier league that it was. David Griffin has given Blatt more pieces to work with this year. No more excuses about his learning curve, Blatt has to prove he can handle the NBA grind, style, hyper athleticism and pressure. His X and O’s will be under the microspcope as he tries to figure out how to use Dellavedova with this very good collection of high scoring guards.

This is a big year coming up for the Cavs and also Matthew Dellavedova. It is a contract year. Next summer salaries are expected to inflate and Dellavedova will be looking for NBA security after paying his dues for three years as a Cleveland super-sub. Will he be given enough time on the floor to make an impact for the Cavs this year as they eye a return to the NBA Finals? Or will he be a glorified cheerleader?


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