Earlier last year, in the lead up to the World Cup, news came out that Matthew Dellavedova was revamping his shooting form.
Dellavedova has been considered a proven outside contributor since his career kicked off in 2013. In the six NBA seasons prior to this one, Dellavedova has shot 38.1% from the 3 point line, as well as 83.5% from the free throw line.
Such a change, therefore, had little to do with accuracy, but more to do with adopting a speedier release. Dellavedova's physical limitations have always meant that his opportunities to score at the rim at the NBA level were few and far between. Over his career, 48% of his field goal attempts have been three-pointers. It made sense that in speeding up his release, he could generate more offensive gravity with the jump shot, as well as produce a higher volume of shots, increasing his scoring output.
When Dellavedova's new and improved shooting form was revealed prior to the 2019 FIBA World Cup, it certainly looked the part.
The stroke had been streamlined into one action, eliminating the prior overhead wind up that had slowed the movement down. The shot was simply quicker.
The new, sleeker shot made its debut in China last year, and the results seemed promising, if inconsistent. Coming out of the gates firing, the former Gael hit 6 from 10 behind the arc on route to his most impressive game of the tournament - a-24 point outing against Canada.
Unfortunately, results tailed off, with him hitting eight of 29 threes from that point forward. His outstanding opening game kept him to a respectable 35.9% mark for the tournament, but with such a small sample size, the jury was well and truly still out on if the form would be an improvement, and if so, when those improvements would start appearing. For the time being, the inconsistency was rightfully chalked up to a transition phase, given the recency of the changes.
Fast forward to the halfway point of this 2019/20 NBA season, and that shooting explosion against Canada is starting to look more and more like an outlier in what has been an extremely rough year for Dellavedova's shooting. The point guard has started the season off, knocking down only 11 of his 64 three-point attempts for the Cavaliers.
The jump shooting woes have been the only difference in Dellavedova's game this season - his 2 point field goal percentage, assist and rebounding rates are all at his career rate, and indeed his steal rate and free throw percentage are at career-high marks - but this perimeter drop off has been enough to lower his overall field goal percentage down to 33.3%, as well as catapult him to the lowest minutes per game for his career (sans his 12-game stint with Milwaukee last season, prior to getting traded).
Matthew Dellavedova's spot in the Cleveland Cavaliers' rotation, and possibly his viability as an effective NBA player going forward, likely hinge on the progress of his outside shot. Such a drastic drop off --Dellavedova has the single worst three-point percentage in the league for guards that have logged over 500 minutes this season-- for a player with such a history of success shooting the ball, can likely be attributed to the drastic change he made last offseason.
With so much at stake, particularly in a contract year, signs of progress are needed, and with that in mind, Dellavedova's outing against the Clippers last Wednesday was a welcome sign of life. In 12 minutes of play, Dellavedova had an extremely productive 14 points on 4 of 7 shooting, including 2 of 3 from behind the arc - his first double digit scoring game for the season.
While such a stat line may feel trivial to celebrate in a vacuum, for someone who had connected on just four three-point attempts the whole month prior, it was a glimpse of what could be a positive regression back to effectiveness as a shooter.
One factor going for him is his team situation. The Cavs, with a 10-33 record, lack the proven guard depth for Delly to be booted from the rotation, despite the shooting drought.
Dellavedova's traits are well-known. He's a high effort defender, he hustles for the one-percenters, and he's a selfless ball-mover. For six successful NBA seasons, quality outside shooter was also part of that formula, and with patience, hopefully that label can be reattributed. For now, however, both Dellavedova, and those supporting him, will have to exercise patience as he continues the difficult task of transitioning to a new shooting technique.