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Friday Five: Dellavedova’s liability, Exum’s finishing, Maker time and Sixers Big 3
Welcome back to the Friday Five. Let's bounce around the NBA and see how our Australians have fared.
1. Dellavedova’s place on the Bucks balance sheet
It might be time to fear the worst with regards to Matthew Dellavedova’s role in Milwaukee. Simply put: he has been a complete afterthought under Mike Budenholzer.
Cleaning the Glass, which filters out garbage time in recording its statistical database, has zero relevant data on Dellavedova for the current NBA season. What does this mean? Well it means the Maryborough native has not played a single minute of relevant NBA basketball this season. In the seven brief appearances he has made, the closest final margin has been 15 points.
Donte DiVincenzo and Pat Connaughton – both younger and cheaper options than Dellavedova – have thrived during Milwaukee’s impressive start to the season. The pair have absorbed all reserve guard minutes and relegated the Australian into the role of spectator.
We are already through one fifth of the NBA season and, given the Bucks are thriving, something drastic is needed for Dellavedova re-establish himself as a rotation piece. That presents Milwaukee with an interesting quandary.
Dellavedova is being paid $9.6 million (USD) this season and holds a player option for the same amount next year. Barring something unforeseen --or extreme charity on Dellavedova's part-- it is a virtual guarantee he picks that option up. Equivalent money will not be available for him in free agency.
That makes Dellavedova a negative asset for the Bucks, as he is clearly overpaid to sit around as a twelfth man.
Dellavedova’s salary is right around league average. That fact alone makes him tradable for a variety of players, should Milwaukee be willing to include the assets needed to entice another team into making a deal. A draft pick or young player, such as Maker, would be the likely tax required for dumping Dellavedova’s contract.
If Milwaukee decides a roster upgrade is required – and for what it’s worth, the more they sustain their great start, the more likely this is – then the Australian is an obvious tool for making this happen. Trading Dellavedova for a rotation piece would achieve the dual objective of improving the Bucks rotation this season, while removing Dellavedova’s contract from the books.
Kyle Korver is one name that has been bandied about, given he and Budenholzer worked together in Atlanta. Kent Bazemore, another Budenholzer disciple in Atlanta is one more name to watch. Under both scenarios, Dellavedova could be the financial centrepiece to make the money work.
These are just two examples, but as trade season heats up, expect Dellavedova’s name to be swirling in most Bucks-related rumours. His time in Milwaukee could be winding down.
2. The Butler impact
Here are some interesting notes on how Jimmy Butler's addition has impacted Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers.
The quartet of Butler, Simmons, J.J. Redick and Joel Embiid have recorded a net rating of plus 21.9 in 128 minutes together, per Cleaning the Glass.
Given Butler has been with the team for less than a fortnight, this is a tremendous sign for Brett Brown.
The Sixers starting unit was an integral part of their success last season and, while Robert Covington and Dario Saric are now in Minnesota, Butler’s addition can facilitate an even more robust two-way line-up. The Sixers jumped out to big leads against Utah and Charlotte over the weekend, a clear sign of the potential on playing Philadelphia’s best players together.
Simmons’ free throw attempts are up 30 percent since Butler was acquired.
This one is harder to unpack, as Butler’s acquisition is likely one of many factors driving the uptick.
Above all else, Simmons has just played better basketball over the past two weeks, and that has coincided with Butler’s arrival. The reduction of Markelle Fultz’s minutes must also be acknowledged, as his presence placed a glass ceiling on what Simmons could accomplish on the court. The insertion of Redick back into the starting line-up means Simmons is spending more minutes with one of the best shooters in basketball, and someone who works perfectly with his passing gifts.
Each factor is a direct consequence of the Butler trade, and they have combined to bring out a more aggressive version of Simmons. His 11 free throws against Charlotte on Saturday were a season high. His finishing around the rim has also improved with Butler by his side.
A simplified rotation.
While the madness of Fultz’s situation provides many relevant questions over his place in the NBA, removing him from the equation, coupled with the Butler trade, has simplified Brown’s rotation.
Wilson Chandler, healthy after a hamstring injury that derailed his start to the season, is now the fifth member of Philadelphia’s starting unit. While much older than the jettisoned Saric, he provides a suitable proximity for what the Croatian brought to the table. The Sixers starters are now their five best players and, while sounding obvious, this is a huge step in the right direction.
That leaves T.J. McConnell, Mike Muscala, Landry Shamet, and Amir Johnson as the four main bench players. Each has a clear role once entering the game and is suitable, within a regular season setting, of fulfilling it.
The Sixers remain one player short. An additional wing with three-point range is the piece needed to elevate this squad when the postseason arrives. But for now, there are clearly defined roles for Philadelphia’s top nine players and there is enough talent present to climb the Eastern Conference.
3. Time to make his mark
Thon Maker now has his chance. With John Henson facing a minimum of 12 weeks on the sidelines with a torn ligament in his left wrist, Maker has a clear pathway to minutes as Brook Lopez’s backup. But there is also pressure on Maker to perform, as Milwaukee can no longer tolerate the sketchy play that has dominated his NBA career to date.
This was evident when the Bucks hosted Denver on Monday night. Maker only played three very disappointing minutes against the Nuggets. He was ineffective early, and with the Bucks battling back from a huge deficit, Maker was benched for the entire second half.
Maker will get his chance. He has shown flashes during his limited minutes this season - doesn’t that sound familiar? - but he must display his growth by being a consistent player, night in and night out. Much of this comes down to making better decisions.
Offensively, his value will be largely dictated by an ability to shoot the ball from the perimeter. When on the inside, however, it would be great to see Maker playing with a more deliberate disposition, and working through the options presented by the defence. This play from last week’s game against the Chicago Bulls is this very topic personified.
In prior years, Maker would have tried a forced finish at the rim, and historically these didn’t end well. Patience was present in this moment, and he was able to think through the situation and find his outside shooter for an open look. It’s only one small example, sure, but if Maker can illustrate a series of incremental improvements in the more subtle areas, he will be worthy of minutes on a contending side like the Bucks.
4. Dante Exum’s finishing woes
Dante Exum is shooting a meagre 51% on field goal attempts at the rim this season, per Cleaning the Glass. That ranks him in the 18th percentile in this category for players at his position.
On the positive side, 52% of Exum’s attempts are coming at the rim. That is an elite figure for guards, although getting to the basket has never been an issue for Exum, as he has ranked among the league leaders throughout his career. The problem this season is that he is shooting a career-worst percentage on these attempts.
Exum told The Pick and Roll last week that finishing at the rim remains one of his key improvement areas.
“I’ve just been rushing a few times when I have got to the rim this year,” Exum explained. “It’s just a case of getting there and having the confidence to finish over these big guys.”
As seen in the above clips, Exum is fond of scooping the basketball and launching it high off the backboard. This form is extremely difficult for opponents to block, a natural advantage from Exum’s gaudy wingspan. But the sheer verticality he uses on these running scoop shots makes them harder to convert.
Finishing at the rim remains the easiest means for Exum securing a rotation spot.
A quick note on the Jazz: they are currently in the midst of the most difficult NBA schedule situation I can ever recall. They are half way through a 12-game stint that will see them play in a different city every other night. After a five game road trip last week, the next 10 days will see the Jazz travel to every corner of America, with games in Los Angeles, Brooklyn and Miami all on the schedule. The Jazz are facing an almighty challenge ahead.
5. Ryan Broekhoff and Joe Ingles: one and the same
The Pick and Roll caught up with Ryan Broekhoff last week, and asked the Frankston native to describe the similarities between himself and Joe Ingles. Here is an excerpt from the conversation.
Q: You seemed to have followed a similar path to Joe Ingles. Was that a deliberate move?
We are actually with the same agency. So his career path is something I tried to set mine on. Go down the European route, have some good years over there and then try make the jump like he has. It has been quite similar.
I’m only in the early stages of my NBA career but hopefully I am able to grow and develop like he has.
Q: Why has Ingles been able to sustain himself in the NBA?
He just can do so many things. He’s very versatile. Can guard multiple positions and play multiple positions. Can create with the ball. Shoots the ball really well from deep. He is obviously a tough guard. He’s got the basketball I.Q. and the attitude to go along with that. It makes him very complete in this league, and very hard to guard night in and night out.
That’s another week of basketball in the books, and another Friday Five complete. Did we miss anything? Let Ben know on Twitter if there is anything you would like to see next week.