Aussies in NBA: Dellavedova is ready to start

Matthew Dellavedova’s preseason ended with him being named the Milwaukee Bucks’ starting point guard. How he got to that point, though, was due to a mixture of events he did, and didn’t control.

Firstly, the trade of Michael Carter-Williams all but confirmed Dellavedova’s starting gig. Carter-Williams was Dellavedova’s major competitor for the spot, but with him now in Chicago, the Australian is set to step into the starting role for the first time in his career.

Dellavedova is eager to get started in his new role, but understands the importance of ensuring team success over his own.

"I’m feeling good and I’m feeling ready," Dellavedova said about his starting role, during a teleconference with Australian media earlier this week.

"I’m excited about the opportunity that we have as a team and I have personally. My only focus is what can I do to help the team win and that’s all that matters.

"I think on the defensive side that’s where we’ll see how good we can be as a team, If we can get stops we can get out and run and get easy baskets, it makes the game a whole lot easier."

While Dellavedova didn’t have any direct influence on Milwaukee’s decision – he didn’t storm into John Hammond’s office and demand Carter-Williams to be moved – there is no doubt Dellavedova’s preseason form factored into the Bucks’ thinking.

The preseason can fool anyone if the results aren’t taken with a grain of salt. So, that must be considered. It’s common knowledge that players aren’t playing at their absolute hardest in the exhibitions contests, as teams and coaches are trying to figure out rotations and give young kids a chance.

Even with that caveat in place, Dellavedova’s preseason was still impressive. The 26-year-old showed attributes that can be carried into the Bucks’ season opener against Charlotte on Thursday (AEST) and beyond.

Milwaukee needed a pure point guard coming into the offseason. Carter-Williams was an inefficient scoring guard, while Giannis Antetokounmpo is still a project at the position. This allowed Dellavedova to join the squad and fill an immediate hole.

Dellavedova’s play making abilities are underrated across the league. The Australian plays with a high basketball IQ, rarely makes mistakes and can identify passing lanes and angles. This was on display during the preseason, as Dellavedova averaged 6.0 assists in 24.6 minutes per night. Furthermore, Dellavedova had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.33, assist percentage of 33.0 percent and assist ratio of 43.7 – all numbers worthy of a starting point guard spot.

As mentioned earlier, raw numbers in preseason basketball can be a trap. It’s important to wrap context around them, as Dellavedova wasn’t playing against A-grade competition and at the highest intensity levels. When ripping apart individual pieces of play, though, we saw glimpses of what Dellavedova can provide Milwaukee this season.

In this play, the Bulls’ defence collapses as Dellavedova drives to the basket off a screen from Miles Plumlee. After Dellavedova gets past Rajon Rondo, Robin Lopez does a good job at closing the passing lane to Plumlee, while the help from Taj Gibson blocks Dellavedova's path to the basket. However, Dellavedova realises this and makes a slick pass to an open Jabari Parker in the corner.

Dellavedova shows his ability to make the correct decision on the fast break in this play. After a Chicago miss, the Bucks get the ball out to Dellavedova on the break. With Lopez in front of Dellavedova, the Aussie doesn’t go up and attempt to force a tough lay-up. Instead, he notices Parker trailing him on the play and drops a bounce pass to him for the lay-in. While it is a simple play, it shows Dellavedova’s ability to make the correct decision in transition and how he sets up his teammates for easy buckets.

In this clip against the Pistons, Andre Drummond and Ish Smith trap Dellavedova on the baseline. However, Dellavedova has the smarts and vision to notice an open Plumlee diving towards the basket, and executes a perfect alley-oop pass.

The consensus view across the league is that the Bucks are rolling out a squad that is built for the future. Based on Milwaukee's official social media hashtag, #OwnTheFuture, it seems to be the organisational approach as well. Dellavedova, however, believes the team can succeed this season, despite the youth movement.

"We will see how the season goes but I definitely think we can do something special this year," Dellavedova said.

"We are not waiting around for guys to develop. I think we can make things happen right now.

"They’ll be ups and down during the season but with how hard the guys are working, I feel good where are we right now."

Over the offseason, Dellavedova picked up tips from new head coach and 10-time NBA All-Star Jason Kidd. Hall of Famer John Stockton even paid the Bucks a visit. Being taught by two of the greatest point guards ever to play the game was an experience Dellavedova believes can't be replicated.

"It was awesome," Dellavedova said of learning from Kidd and Stockton.

"Coach Kidd has been great to talk to and the way he sees the floor and thinks about the game, it’s been great already. I’ve already learnt a lot but I’m going to learn even more as the season goes on.

"For him to bring John Stockton to training camp, that was really cool. To be able to sit down with John and with the other guards on the team and talk about the game and how he sees it and the things he did in his career to be successful, it’s priceless.

"With those two guys, there is no book or game tape that we can watch that is better than talking to the source of all that knowledge."

Along with Dellavedova's increased offensive role, one he says he plans to be more "aggressive" in this season, the Bucks have one of the most promising defensive rosters in the league. Milwaukee's combination of length and athleticism is one of the most impressive in the league, and Dellavedova is excited to see what he can add to that unit.

"I think it’s the longest team in the league and playing against them in the past, when they use that length on the defensive end, it closes down passing lanes and you have to think harder about throwing cross court passes because they’re always in danger of being picked off," Dellavedova said.

"Defensively, that’ll be our strength and what determines our success. If we can get stops and get out and run, that’s when we will play our best basketball. We just need to get into it on the defensive end and make use of that length."

Coach Kidd is set to roll out some of the most intriguing line-ups in the league. Dellavedova will often be paired with the likes of rookie Malcolm Brogdon and 6’11 point guard Antetokounmpo, giving the Bucks as many as three ball handlers on the court at any one time.

However, Dellavedova is the only pure offensive point guard, while providing his usual tenacious defence. He flashed elements of his game in the preseason, and Dellavedova is set to carry on these attributes in the regular season – minus the trick shots.