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Aussies in NBA Playoffs: How will Delly fare against Detroit and those Banger screens?
It’s hard to argue against the fact that Matthew Dellavedova had his best year as a pro, this season.
Entering the league as a feel-good story, Dellavedova has spent the better part of three seasons proving his worth as a genuine NBA rotation player.
After having the national spotlight shine on him during last season’s playoffs, for both the good and the bad, Delly has well and truly consolidated his place with a fine campaign in 2015/16. There was much speculation and handwringing in the preseason over Delly’s minutes and role, particularly after Mo Williams was signed, but that just turned out to be noise. Williams was a non-factor whilst Delly cemented his spot in the Cavs' rotation.
Delly sported career-bests across the board, including games played, points-per-game, 3-point percentage, free throw percentage and assists. He powered past the 1500 minute mark for the first time in his career, while ensuring they were the most efficient minutes to date.
He also placed in the top 10 for point guards across the league in assist-to-turnover ratio, and was top 10 in 3-point shooting for much of the season until an icy stretch in March/April.
Delly’s minutes steadily declined per month since Kyrie Irving returned from injury. And while his gaudy early-season numbers predictably regressed, his overall value and impact held true. The Cavs were just flat out better with Dellavedova on the floor, outscoring opponents by 10.3 points per 100 possessions.
I’ve previously written about how Dellavedova deserved to be in the conversation surrounding the Most Improved Player award. Though he’s certainly cooled off numbers-wise since the All Star break, he still has a huge bearing on the Cavs’ success. Even Zach Lowe gives Delly an honorary mention in his Sixth Man of the Year ballot, underscoring the budding reputation of the Aussie as an impact player in the league.
With Cavs coach, Tyronn Lue, staggering the minutes of his Big Three of Lebron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, so that Irving could run the offense of the second unit, Delly’s numbers, on the surface, were bound to regress. Still, he proved that he could co-exist with Irving - lineups that feature both Irving and Dellavedova have outscored opponents by 55 points in 362 minutes, per research on NBAwowy. Intuitively, it makes sense; Delly’s presence allows Irving to hide defensively, and the Cavs retain yet another playmaker on the court, an increasingly important tactic in the toolkit, thanks to those Golden freaking State Warriors.
Delly's struggles against Detroit
For whatever reason, Dellavedova struggled against the Pistons this season. Over 4 games, and 77 minutes of court time, he shot 34.8 percent from the field, including a Kobe-esque 25 percent from deep. He was also a minus-7 overall when on the floor.
There’s no real rhyme nor reason for his struggles. Delly's game is as plug-and-play as it gets: initiate the offense, run some side pick-and-roll, find the roller, or knock down the stand still 3. There's not a whole lot that can go wrong, which explains his consistency.
On defense, the Pistons don’t really have the jittery water-bug guard types that give Delly trouble, and you can bet that the Cavs will duck under all ball-screens for Reggie Jackson in the pick-and-roll.
It’s likely to be a quick series, meaning Delly gets the chance for extra minutes and to work out the kinks in his shot. The most memorable part of this match-up may very well be the prospect of earth-shattering collisions when Delly invariably slams into a mean screen from fellow countryman, Aron Baynes.
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It's something the Big Banger has talked about on a recent interview with Roy Ward of The Age, and relishes.
"We are looking forward to the challenge and it will be fun to go out against Delly," Baynes said. "I'll definitely have some screens ready for him and I'm sure he has some things ready for me as well - we are looking forward to it and it's always good to be on the same court as a fellow Aussie.
"Hopefully it makes for extra competition between us."
Game 1: Detroit Pistons @ Cleveland Cavaliers
When: Monday, 18 April 2016, 5 a.m. AEST Where: Quicken Loans Arena