Recapping the 2017/18 season: The tale of Matthew Dellavedova's incomplete season

Matthew Dellavedova entered the 2017/18 NBA season, fresh off his best campaign as a professional basketballer. He arrived in Milwaukee with the mandate of translating gritty defence and timely shooting onto a young developmental team looking to ascend into the championship conversation. Year One was a ragging success, as Dellavedova displayed career high outputs and the Bucks returned to the playoffs. Year Two on the other hand, was much more complicated.

Dellavedova battled through a disjointed second season with the Milwaukee Bucks, one that was hampered by irritating injuries. It saw a marginalisation in his role, when the Bucks traded for Eric Bledsoe in November. These obstacles fed into Dellavedova’s performance on the court. His raw counting statistics were down compared to prior seasons, although they were not drastically different in many of the traditional indicators, but there was a clear decline in terms of his impact.

The Australian logged a net rating of minus 8.9, per Cleaning The Glass, which is steep drop off from prior seasons. He couldn’t find the range on his jumper either, converting on a career worst 36% of field goal attempts.

With that in mind, let’s take a look over the key takeaways from Dellavedova’s season, and what the future may hold.

The injury bug

Dellavedova’s second season in Milwaukee can best be described as incomplete. Thanks to two separate long-term injuries – knee tendinitis at first, followed by a severe right ankle sprain in February – Dellavedova could only muster 38 appearances for the Bucks, a total that is the lowest of his five-year NBA career.

Suffering the ankle ailment against Brooklyn was especially problematic for both Dellavedova and the Bucks. The Australian was finally approaching full fitness for the first time in months, with his minutes increasing to their highest levels of the season. There was a sense of optimism brewing ahead of the All-Star break and this was all taken away with a roll of the ankle.

Dellavedova was sidelined until the final day of the regular season. He was ineffective as the Bucks stumbled into the playoffs, and could only provide fleeting moments of influence in Milwaukee’s seven game series against the Boston Celtics.

Best game of the season

Dellavedova’s best game came in early January against the Indiana Pacers. In less than 17 minutes of action, he distributed 9 assists and scored 8 points on perfect shooting from the field.

A standout performance against the Pacers highlighted a four game burst where Dellavedova averaged 8.8 assists, while committing less than 1 turnover in each game. Not known as a prodigious playmaker, sustained performances of this level show that the Australian remains a useful piece in Milwaukee when healthy. Although, that was a major caveat during the season, as runs like this were few and far between. In a telling sign of Dellavedova’s circumspect campaign, he only posted a positive plus/minus in 15 games all season.

Clustered backcourt

Much has changed since Milwaukee signed Dellavedova, following his championship season in 2016. Malcolm Brogdon’s emergence as a bona fide rotation piece signalled the first assault on the Australian’s minutes. This was further complicated by the acquisition of Bledsoe.

After averaging a career high in minutes (26.1 per game) during his first season in Milwaukee, Dellavedova’s playing time dropped to the lowest level since his rookie season (18.7). Injuries played a role in this; as Dellavedova was often limited physically, but performance, or lack thereof, was the more pressing factor. With Brogdon and Bledsoe on board, it must be acknowledged that Milwaukee now has two point guards who performed at a higher level than the Australian. This was reflected by the allocation of minutes when the trio were all healthy.

Expectations for next season

The first question to be asked is whether Dellavedova will be on the Bucks roaster come October? The answer is most likely. While Milwaukee appears to have an overabundance of point guards, trading Dellavedova, who is playing on a contract that pays him roughly $10 million annually over the next two years, appears unlikely.

The Australian is coming off a challenging season and this puts his value at an all time low. Given the dearth of salary cap space around the league, Milwaukee would likely be forced into taking undesirable contracts in any trade for Dellavedova. That isn’t a realistic option. If the Bucks want to alleviate their backcourt, trading Brogdon, who remains on his bargain basement rookie contract for another 12 months, appears the logical play.

Assuming all three point guards remain, it’s difficult to project how Milwaukee’s rotation will look under new head coach Mike Budenholzer. The former Atlanta Hawks frontman offers new hope as Milwaukee looks to climb the Eastern Conference with Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Dellavedova’s number one goal for the offseason is regaining full fitness and conditioning. While his performances on the court were below par, he was never given a clean run to work in the season just passed. When healthy, he remains an effective NBA role player, who is best utilised as a low usage guard on a playoff side. With Antetokounmpo now established as a perennial MVP candidate, the Bucks need the very best Dellavedova can offer.