The 2017/18 regular season has proven to be a challenging one for Milwaukee Bucks point guard, Matthew Dellavedova. After missing 15 games earlier in the season with left knee soreness, Dellavedova's latest injury, a right ankle sprain, continues to derail his campaign. The original timeline of 3-4 weeks has come and gone, with the Bucks revealing last weekend that he has indeed suffered a setback in his rehab.
With fellow backup guard, and reigning NBA rookie of the year Malcolm Brogdon on the shelf with a quad injury, the Bucks back court depth has been severely tested. In response to Dellavedova's uncertain timeline to return, Milwaukee signed Brandon Jennings to a 10 day contract on Sunday. Jennings, Milwaukee's 10th overall pick in the 2009 draft, made a stunning return to the NBA yesterday against the lowly Memphis Grizzlies. In 23 minutes of action, Jennings racked up 16 points, 12 assists and 8 rebounds, as the Bucks cruised to a 121-103 victory.
Milwaukee Bucks GM, Jon Horst was noncommittal when originally quizzed on the Jennings signing. "Worst case scenario, you impress the rest of the league; best case scenario, you impress us and there’s an opportunity with us.” Horst said.
With Delly's setback, the timing appeared to make perfect sense. Sign Jennings, an undoubtedly talented, though erratic player, and see if he is worth keeping around for the playoffs run. NBA rules state you can sign a player to two 10-day contracts, before the decision must be made on whether to sign the player for the remainder of the season.
The question now lingers as to whether Dellavedova will suffer a dropoff in minutes, if Jennings' play remains at a level similar to yesterday. Averaging 19 minutes per game in his 37 appearances this year, Dellavedova has routinely been one of the first men called upon off the Bucks bench. To go with his usual tenacious play, Delly has knocked down 37 percent of his three-point attempts, and has set himself up to be one of Milwaukee's more reliable outside shooters.
Suffering from a lack of continuity in his play due to injuries, Dellavedova is having to adjust to a new experience in the NBA: watching from the sidelines. Averaging 73 games per regular season over his first four years in the league, he has only suited up in 37 out of a possible 67 so far. Despite the two lengthy absences, he did complete a sensational stretch of four games either side of the New Year, where he dished out 35 assists, whilst committing a paltry three turnovers.
Just in the second season of a 4-year, 38 million dollar deal, Dellavedova's role in the second unit was seen to crucial to the Bucks' chances before the season commenced.
Milwaukee is now faced with a glut of options, as Eric Bledsoe, Tony Snell, Sterling Brown, Jason Terry and Brandon Jennings compete for backcourt minutes. Dellavedova faces an interesting battle for a spot in the rotation, even before factoring Malcolm Brogdon's return into calculations. Above all else, there is one unique thing Delly does bring to the table - playoffs experience. Jason Terry, who is also an NBA champion with the Dallas Mavericks, along the recently acquired Tyler Zeller, join Dellavedova as the only current Bucks to have gone beyond the first round in the playoffs. With 46 postseason games and an NBA championship on his resume, Dellavedova figures to be a player that head coach Joe Prunty can lean on, when the pressure of the playoffs build up.
With teammate, and fellow Aussie, Thon Maker finding himself on the outside looking in on the Bucks rotation, Dellavedova will be hoping to avoid the same fate. Barring another setback, we should expect a return to the court to come in the next week or so.
Then, the battle for minutes could really hit full swing.