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Aussies in NBA: How does the Bledsoe addition impact Dellavedova in Milwaukee?
On Wednesday, the Milwaukee Bucks executed a trade for disgruntled Phoenix guard Eric Bledsoe, sending centre Greg Monroe and a future first-round pick to the Suns to complete the deal.
The trade has been weeks in the making, with Bledsoe having been sent home from the team after the 27-year-old seemingly voiced his frustrations on Twitter over Phoenix’s lacklustre start to the NBA season.
Having given up a first rounder in the deal -- an asset that is always highly coveted in the league -- the Bucks are unmistakably set to play Bledsoe in the starting line-up. This means, current starting point guard and reigning Rookie of the Year, Malcolm Brogdon, may be resigned to a back-up role off the bench – a role currently held by Aussie Matthew Dellavedova.
So, what does this trade mean for Dellavedova and his standing in Milwaukee?
Delly signed a four-year, $38 million-dollar deal with the Bucks last offseason with the anticipation that the Aussie would be the starting point guard for the immediate future. Dellavedova indeed started the first 30 games of the 2016-17 season for head coach Jason Kidd before a hamstring injury forced him to sit out five games in late December and early January. Up to that point, Delly was averaging 7.4 points, 5.6 assists and 2.4 rebounds in around 28 minutes of action. During that time, the Bucks accrued an even 15-15 record with the Aussie at the helm.
The surprisingly excellent play of 2016 second round selection Malcolm Brogdon in the absence of Dellavedova forced Delly into a bench role once he eventually returned to action. Brogdon posted a triple-double in just his second career start, recording 15 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds in a win at Chicago and impressed coach Kidd with his defensive prowess.
The remainder of the season saw Milwaukee alternate between Brogdon and Dellavedova at the lead guard slot, with the rookie ultimately starting in every playoff game for the Bucks. Fast forward to this season, and Brogdon had assumedly won the starting role over Delly after beginning the year with nine consecutive starts. However, the new addition of Eric Bledsoe throws the guard rotation into uncertainty once again.
The Bucks are deep at both guard spots, with Bledsoe, Brogdon, Dellavedova, Khris Middleton and Tony Snell all able to eat up minutes in the backcourt. When looking exclusively at those five players, and knowing that coach Kidd and his staff seemingly prefer Brogdon over Dellavedova, it’s hard to see where the Aussie gets his game time from.
However, gone are the days of players being utilized at a single position. Many off-guards can play anywhere from shooting guard to power forward depending on the line-up. Coaches have been inspired to employ three, even four guards on the court at the same time in this era of positionless basketball.
In the case of Dellavedova, this is a great thing. If the Bucks elect to go small, there are seemingly minutes for the Aussie to consume. Milwaukee could trot out a line-up featuring a combination of either Bledsoe-Dellavedova, Brogdon-Dellavedova or Bledsoe-Brogdon, with the likes of Middleton and Snell sliding to the forward spots. The versatility of superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo means coach Kidd can place the early MVP favourite almost anywhere on the floor and he won’t be out of place.
It wouldn’t be inconceivable that Malcolm Brogdon doesn’t end up losing his starting spot in lieu of Bledsoe, rather starting alongside him. The Bucks could decide to begin games playing small ball, with a Bledsoe-Brogdon-Middleton-Antetokounmpo-Henson line-up. This would mean that Dellavedova would only see a minimal impact on his current playing time, as he would retain most of the back-up minutes at point guard.
If coach Kidd elects to go with a more traditional starting five -- that being most likely Bledsoe-Snell-Middleton-Antetokounmpo-Henson – Delly could see his minutes take a hit as Brogdon would take up minutes off the bench.
Whichever way the Bucks choose to go, rest assured that Delly should still see the court on most, if not all, nights. Milwaukee must justify the large contract they handed the Australian last off season, and coach Kidd seemingly likes the championship experience that Delly brings to the Bucks.
Bledsoe is expected to suit up for his first game as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday (AEST) against the Spurs in San Antonio.