Scrappy Fan-Favorite Looks to Carry Summer Success Into the Season
by Joe Gabriele (@CavsJoeG)
9/12/19 | Cavs.com
While most of his teammates, old and new, will have to get their competitive edge back after a long offseason, Matthew Dellavedova will be battle-tested – fresh off his FIBA Basketball World Cup stint with the (currently) undefeated Boomers.
Australia improved to 6-0 in the international tournament after dropping the Czech Republic by a dozen points on Wednesday night. They’ll face Spain on Friday for a slot in the finals as well as their first medal in history.
Patty Mills is leading the way – averaging 22.2 ppg through his first six games – but it’s the Boomers’ team-first philosophy that has them two wins away from the Gold. They simply share the ball better than any team in the tournament. In a Second Round win over the Dominican Republic, the team assisted on all 30 made baskets.
In that respect, Delly is leading the way for Australia – averaging 6.0 assists per game, good for sixth among all players. But that’s nothing new for the seventh-year guard, who led Cleveland a year ago – averaging 4.2 helpers in his 36-game return with the Wine & Gold.
A fan-favorite since signing as an undrafted free agent in 2011, Delly missed the final 17 games of 2018-19 with a concussion, but he made a true impression in his brief reunion tour. And after a successful summer with the Boomers, he’ll be ready to roll when Camp tips off later this month.
LOOKING BACK — After four straight trips to the NBA Finals, last season got off to a strange start, beginning with a coaching change just six games into the season. The Cavaliers limped into December with a 4-17 mark, Kevin Love was on the shelf with a toe injury, the team’s 19-year-old Draft pick was now the starting point guard and JR Smith was days away from parting ways with the squad.
Needing to shake up the roster, the Wine & Gold pulled off a three-team deal – acquiring Matthew Dellavedova, John Henson and a pair of picks from the Bucks, sending Sam Dekker to Washington and George Hill to Milwaukee in the process.
Henson, who had left wrist surgery before the deal, never played a minute for Cleveland. Delly, on the other hand, was outstanding.
The return to Cleveland immediately energized Delly’s season. He debuted against his former squad, netting 11 points and four assists in just 15 minutes of action. He stayed hot when he made his triumphant return to Cleveland – canning three triples, tallying 15 points off the bench in a win over New York two nights later.
One of the heroes from Cleveland’s 2016 title run, Dellavedova notched double-figures in each of his first five games with Cleveland. But just as importantly, he provided rookie Collin Sexton with a solid veteran backup midway through a difficult season.
Delly’s scoring leveled out as the season progressed – finishing the campaign with 13 double-digit scoring games – but his leadership, toughness and basketball I.Q. had a definite effect on Larry Drew’s young squad. In his 36-game run with the Cavaliers, without starting a single game, he led the team in assists on 13 different occasions.
But Delly’s reunion tour came to a screeching half after he suffered a concussion in the first half of a March 6 matchup in Brooklyn and proceeded to miss the final five weeks of the season.
BY THE NUMBERS: 24 … assists that Delly handed out in back-to-back games in February, the second time in his career that he’s tallied consecutive games of double-digit assists.
In the first of those two games – a triple-overtime loss to the Nets – he passed out 13 helpers, most by a Cavalier this past season. And those games were part of a seven-game early-February stretch in which Delly averaged 5.2 apg off the bench – tallying at least five dimes in each contest.
LOOKING AHEAD — Like our previous player in the preseason preview – Jordan Clarkson – there shouldn’t be any confusion over Matthew Dellavedova’s role with the squad. John Beilein knows exactly what he can do and understands his immense value alongside a young roster.
The Cavaliers won five of their previous eight games before Delly suffered a season-ending concussion against the Nets and won just two more games the rest of the way. Even on a struggling team, Delly simply plays winning basketball. And when the baptism-by-fire experience got a little too warm for then-rookie Collin Sexton, the Aussie import was there to take some of the heat off.
Sexton is still just 20 years old, and the Wine & Gold just drafted three more youngsters who’ll have to take some lumps of their own. With that in mind, Delly’s knowledge, experience and intensity will be invaluable in their development.
Like Clarkson, Delly knows exactly what his role will be in 2019-20. If he can stay healthy, he’s proven that he knows how to win ballgames. Cleveland’s youngsters would be wise to take notes starting on September 30.