Welcome to the fourth installment of our Aussies in NBA: 2016-17 Season Wish List. In part one we covered Andrew Bogut and Dante Exum. Part two explored what to expect from Aron Baynes in Detroit, and in part three we looked at Patty Mills. Today, we turn our attention to a reigning NBA champion.
2016-17 wish list: (i) maintain improved efficiency, and (ii) find a new Tristan Thompson
Calling for someone to simply maintain their output may seem like a strange thing to wish for, but it is very much applicable to Australia’s latest NBA champion.
Matthew Dellavedova has a new home in Milwaukee, which makes it extremely difficult to project forward. New teammates, new coaches and an entirely new environment all create uncertainty as to what our little warrior Delly will look like once the 2016-17 season tips off.
Before we attempt to look forward, it bears repeating what he has accomplished during his three years in the NBA. Dellavedova ultimately found his niche in the Association due in part to the limitations of his skill set. While listed as a point guard, he's really an undersized two-guard. He can bring the ball up the floor and initiate offence, but this isn’t his best skill. On offence, his role in Cleveland was to hit open shots and make the smart decisions with the ball – his ability to blindly throw up lobs to Tristan Thompson is a testament to that (more on this in a minute).
There are some obvious limitations, but they shouldn’t overshadow the fact Dellavedova is now an established NBA player. The 26-year-old Australian cemented this reputation during the Cavaliers' recent championship season, illustrating an ability to improve all facets of his game. The only per 36 minutes statistic Dellavedova didn’t improve on was rebounding, which fell a measly 0.2. Otherwise, his performance was career leading in every facet, per our friends at Basketball Reference:
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Dellavedova finished the season 13th in 3PT% and 10th in assist-to-turnover ratio – placing ahead of the likes of Kyle Lowry, John Wall, Kemba Walker, Reggie Jackson and Russell Westbrook. If he can maintain that efficiency, Dellavedova will prove to be a steal on his contract for the Bucks. But this is the crux of the mystery with Milwaukee’s newest recruit.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton are all personal favourites of mine, but they are not on the level of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, or even Kevin Love at this point in their respective careers.
There is a bulk of evidence that Delly benefited from his environment. That much is obvious, right? He played alongside LeBron Freaking James! But it is still interesting to explore how The King’s Army impacted Dellavedova’s offensive output.
Firstly, it cast doubts over his ability to create offence for himself. According to NBA.com, of Dellavedova’s 207 made baskets last season, 55%, came via an assist. In fact, 24% of those assists came from James alone.
Dellavedova’s reliance on his Cavaliers teammates is even more pronounced, when looking into his long range shooting. 81% of his made three point shots were assisted, while 68% of his three point attempts were catch and shoot opportunities, coming directly from offence created by a teammate. Dellavedova shot 46.3% on such opportunities.
And here is the most striking statistic of all: 210 of his 239 three point attempts were either open (4 to 6 away from the nearest defender) or wide open (6 or more feet away from the nearest defender) as defined by the NBA. That is 88 percent, an absurd figure!
To put that number in perspective, the Golden State Warriors' record breaking offence only took 80 percent of their three point jumpers from open or wide open situations. Steph Curry only took 71 percent of his three pointers from such advantageous positions. Ditto for Kyrie Irving.
And yet, for every criticism there is one clear counter point: the scoreboard. Cleveland was a better team when Dellavedova was on the floor – the Cavaliers were 7.9 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court. Such improvement is highlighted when looking at Cleveland’s best line-ups over the 2015-16 regular season.
5 of their 11 best 2 man units contained Dellavedova (minimum 400 minutes).
8 of their 11 best 3 man units contained Dellavedova (minimum 200 minutes).
7 of their 11 best 4 man units contained Dellavedova (minimum 200 minutes).
Yes, Tyronn Lue benched him during the Cavaliers epic Finals comeback, but a few disappointing outings in the Finals don’t masquerade the preceding 100 games. We should know this by now. James Harden struggled through the 2012 Finals in his third NBA season and he turned out alright. Heck, I’m sure the Milwaukee Bucks would love to have the problem of struggling through an NBA Finals series.
Dellavedova's game makes him a great fit with almost any team, Milwaukee included. He can play both guard positions, is an above average shooter, doesn’t turnover the basketball and has illustrated a willingness to do the little things required to win games. There is a reason he closed so many Cavaliers playoff games over the past two seasons.
Even the staunchest of Dellavedova supporters can’t argue against him being a significant benefactor of his environment. That is why expectations should be tempered as he commences a new career in Milwaukee. Simply repeating the performance of last season and maintaining his per minute output in a larger role, with lesser teammates no less, would be a tremendous success.
A quick note on our second wish. Dellavedova and Thompson developed a telepathic relationship in the pick and roll, creating a number of vine worthy alley-oops.
Delly assisted on 24 percent of Thompsons made baskets, often creating two points from the most benign of opportunities.
Trademark defence and selflessness will translate to Milwaukee. Finding a new lob buddy would be another nice development for the Bucks.
That's it for our Dellavedova preview. Check back in on Monday, when we look over how Joe Ingles fits into a revamped Utah Jazz roster.