Matthew Dellavedova throws up bizarre floaters, rather than throwing down flashy dunks. He greets LeBron like a business partner, rather than partaking in an elaborate handshake. You won’t see him wearing leather pants, ridiculous hats or lens-free glasses. He’s neither tall nor athletic. He isn’t an elite scorer, or even a great playmaker. On the surface, nothing about Delly says ‘NBA player’. Upon further inspection, however, everything does.
Dellavedova had quite the eventful season in 2014/15, averaging 4.8 points, 3 assists, 5.5 wood burns and 8.2 name mispronunciations per game.
He inadvertently sparked a national debate about dirty play, gained a strong following through his relentless play, started against Steph Curry in the Finals, and reached true cult hero status after locking up the MVP in game two and dropping 20 in game three.
It was exhausting – and yet exhilarating – to watch Delly crash into everyone and everything, dive on loose balls, sprint hunched over like some kind of possessed senior citizen, and shoot the ball as if 40,000 volts had shot up through his back and out of his hands.
It was his dogged determination that got him so far, from an undrafted training camp invitee to a starter in the NBA Finals. From playing in a small Victorian country town, to facing off against the MVP with the greatest player of our generation by his side.
As the international spotlight shifted to a man who never sought it, the basketball public suddenly noticed Delly’s unusual tendencies. He ran strangely, dribbled strangely, even rebounded strangely. Everything he did looked weird, and yet everything he did worked.
This season, Delly’s unconventional game might just be working better than ever.
Maryborough’s finest is averaging 11.3 points, 9.4 assists and 5.1 rebounds per 36 minutes, and his PER has jumped from 8.5 to 17.3.
It’s almost impossible to measure Dellavedova’s value to the Cavs using statistics, but they can’t go unnoticed either.
Having played just five games, we’re working with an incredibly small sample size, but Australia’s ferocious cult hero is undoubtedly playing some of the best basketball of his life to begin the season.
“I’ve been pleased with my individual performance so far,” Delly wrote in his column on NBA Australia this week.
“I’ve tried to play with a lot of energy, run the second unit efficiently and be aggressive. I’m at my best when I’m being aggressive on both sides of the ball.”
Delly is consistently finding Kevin Love at the top of the arc, Richard Jefferson in the corner, Tristan Thompson under the hoop and LeBron above it. He’s rifled passes through traffic and all over the floor. His right handed, banked floater off his right foot is alive and well. He has become the Cavs’ primary alley-oop instigator and has Thompson on speed dial.
“We have a good chemistry on the pick-and-roll,” Delly wrote about Tristan Thompson.
“He’s always looking for the lob, and it’s something we talk about and work on.”
In Philadelphia on Tuesday, he threw two alley-oops LeBron’s way, the second of which got James to 25,000 points, as the youngest player to ever do so.
Now there’s something for Delly to tell his grandchildren.
“It’s pretty funny to think that I had a very, very small part in him notching that milestone,” Delly wrote.
“When I watch NBA TV and they’re doing a highlight special on LeBron in 20 years, and I see some point guard throwing him a lob to get to 25,000 points it’ll be pretty funny.”
Despite gaining something of a reputation for launching hopeless floaters and wayward lobs, this time around Delly has impressed not just with how much he’s done right, but how little he’s done wrong.
Delly’s assist to turnover ratio is 4.7:1 – eighth best in the league. He has a plus/minus of 14.8, fifth best in the league and the highest in the land if you exclude those destroyers of worlds in Golden State.
The addition of Mo Williams has also worked in Delly’s favour, allowing him to slot back into a more natural role. With Kyrie Irving limping through most of last season’s playoffs and sitting out all but one game of the Finals, Delly was suddenly starting, playing huge minutes and being asked to shoulder a much greater offensive load.
With Mo – who the Cavs signed to backup the perennially unhealthy Irving and add some scoring punch – Delly can settle into the third-string point guard spot while also being able to share the floor with Williams or Irving.
If the Cavs continue to hide Delly’s weaknesses and highlight his strengths by allowing him to slot into his natural role and play his own game, good things will continue to happen.
Delly simply isn’t a big time scorer or playmaker. His primary strengths are on defence and hitting catch-and-shoot threes, 41.4% of which he nailed last season. To provide some context, Mo Williams hit at almost exactly the same rate, and is regarded as one of the better catch and shoot players at his position.
As Delly’s small stature, sheer hustle, funky floaters and pure embodiment of the typical underdog continue to capture the imagination of the basketball world, the Delly show rolls on, only picking up steam as the Maryborough Mamba continues to play some of the best basketball of his life.