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Is Cleveland Cavaliers PG Matthew Dellavedova Ready to be Kyrie Irving’s Backup?
In an offseason focused completely on the return of LeBron James and the pursuit of Kevin Love, most Cleveland Cavaliers fans have forgotten about a possible issue at point guard behind Kyrie Irving. After trading Jarrett Jack in a move to clear cap space to sign James, the Cavaliers roster is left with last year’s undrafted standout Matthew Dellavedova as the primary backup at the position.
Shocking many with his tough, gritty play, Dellavedova pretty much came out of nowhere to earn quality playing time as rookie. A favorite of defensive-minded head coach, Mike Brown, Dellavedova played in 72 games as a rookie out of Saint Mary’s. In 17.7 minutes per game, the Australian averaged 4.7 points, 2.6 assists and 1.7 rebounds on 41.2 percent shooting from the field.
Though those stats may look sub-par for a player who has an opportunity to backup Irving and play alongside James, it is his defensive ability which draws the attention of so many coaches. His activity and intensity even drew scrutiny from one of the league’s emerging stars, Paul George. Back in January after a game against the Cavaliers George stated, “He was doing too much.”
Clearly annoyed by Dellavedova’s activity, George shot just 40 percent from the field in that game despite being five inches taller and more athletic than the rookie. But this just goes to show the versatility you have with a guy like Dellavedova, as he is willing to defend the other team’s top player at any given time.
For those who did not know about him before joining the Cavaliers, you cannot forget Dellavedova can also score as well. During his collegiate career he averaged 15.6 points per game on 41.5 percent shooting from the field. A very good shooter from three-point range, the 23-year old’s determination on both ends of the court make him a fan and coach favorite.
However, the question has to be asked—is he good enough to be the backup point guard on a championship caliber team?
With the addition of James and the pursuit of Love, the Cavaliers are no longer a team in rebuild mode where undrafted rookies can ease into the NBA. If Dellavedova is expected to play 25 minutes per night off the bench behind Irving, he must be able to make an impact on both ends of the court. We saw the defensive ability last year, but his offensive nature has yet to really shine at the NBA level—and no, Vegas Summer league does not count.
For comparisons sake, Patty Mills was the primary backup for Tony Parker and the Spurs last season. In 18.9 minutes per night, Mills averaged 10.2 points per game. His ability to be a scoring threat—he shot 46.4 percent from the floor—allowed the Spurs second unit to not miss a beat while giving their more veteran stars a break.
With Jack gone, if the Cavaliers do not sign another backup point guard they will be putting a lot of pressure on Dellavedova in just his second year. Though many people feel like he can handle it—as you remember this writer was a big fan from day one—the Cavaliers should absolutely add a veteran point guard for cheap if they can. That is not a shot at Dellavedova, just an acceptance of the fact that he is not yet an offensive threat at the NBA level and this team went from fighting for the No. 8 seed to fighting for a chance to win the Eastern Conference with one signing.
There are quite a few point guards on the market who could help take the pressure off him, though it is unknown how much money they are looking to get at this time on the open market. Two former Cavaliers, Ramon Sessions and Mo Williams, would be nice places to start for the Cavaliers—if they are willing to take less money for a chance at an NBA Finals run.
For starters, Sessions averaged 12.3 points and 4.1 assists per game last season in Milwaukee. At 28-years old, Sessions actually was in Cleveland for 41 games back during Irving’s rookie season before being traded to the Lakers. Asking a guy who made $5 million last season to take the veteran minimum probably won’t happen, but it is worth a shot in the dark.
Williams, on the other hand, at 31-years old could actually be a viable option. From his connection with James during his time in Cleveland to the fact he made $2.6 million last season, a player at his stage in his career could absolutely look to chase rings again. With a career 13.3 points per game average, Williams could return to the place where he enjoyed one of his best seasons of his career in 2008-2009.
After the two former Cavaliers, one player to keep an eye on is little-known European player, Bo McCalebb. The 6’0” point guard averaged 11 points and 2.9 assists per game last season in a down year with Turkey, and at 29-years old could be looking to make the jump to the NBA. Though he has no direct connection to new head coach David Blatt, you can be sure Blatt knows a thing or two about this European standout.
At the end of the day it is going to be tough for the Cavaliers to make a splash at point guard with no cap space—hence the rumors the team is pursuing a member of their summer league, Will Cherry. But despite the lack of money and having the likes of Irving and Dellavedova in place, Cavaliers general manager David Griffin needs to find a way to add a veteran point guard to his depth chart before the season—preferably one who can score.
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