The entire city of Cleveland was elated for nearly a month after the Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors in the 2015-2016 NBA Finals. But as amazing as that high was, the low that followed was much greater. On July 7th, the Cavs executed a sign-and-trade with the Milwaukee Bucks that sent point guard Matthew Dellavedova to the Milwaukee Bucks on a four-year $38 million contract.
It was a devastating move that depressed Cleveland fans everywhere. But over three years later, the Cavaliers made a three-team trade with the Bucks and Washington Wizards that brought Delly home, an event that really should become a national holiday. Delly’s return was a rare bright spot for the team’s 2018-2019 season, so let’s take a look at what his impact will be this year.
Matthew Dellavedova was a major bench piece during his first stint in Cleveland, especially in 2015-2016, when he averaged 7.5 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 4.4 assists in 24.6 minutes, while shooting 41% from beyond the arc. He was a leader and energized the entire team with his relentless effort at both ends of the court.
This was exemplified no better than when he was hospitalized for dehydration and severe cramping after Game 3 of the 2015 NBA Finals. His character and consistent improvement earned him a nice offer sheet from Milwaukee, which the Cavs decided not to match, to the dismay of many.
He was a started for much of the 2016-2017 season, but he lost the starting point guard job the next season after injuries cost him 44 games and the Bucks traded for Eric Bledsoe. It was clear that Delly was no longer in Milwaukee’s plans when he didn’t play in half of the team’s first 24 games, and when he was active, he played just 8.1 minutes per night. He was now a reserve on a large contract, and the Bucks began to look for a trade partner.
Where better to send him than to the team and city that loved him? Milwaukee jettisoned Dellavedova and John Henson (another seldom-used player with a big cap hit) along with a first-round pick to the Cavs for George Hill, whose contract was effectively expiring and would provide significant salary relief. Delly enjoyed a solid season with Cleveland, averaging 7.3 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 4.2 assists while playing just under 20 minutes in his 36 contests.
For the first time in his career, Dellavedova was a mentor. Cavs rookie Collin Sexton was able to glean much from the veteran, which certainly contributed to his strong second half of the season. Delly will reprise that role, again providing guidance to Sexton, along with rookies Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr.
It remains to be seen how head coach John Beilein will manage minutes for his mix of veterans and young guys, but Delly should see the floor often; he may be the only average defender the team currently has in its backcourt.
Dellavedova is in the final year of his contract, which means he, like multiple other players on the roster, could provide salary cap relief for other teams. The same goes for Tristan Thompson, Brandon Knight, Jordan Clarkson, and Henson. None are part of Cleveland’s young core, and could net the Cavaliers some solid draft picks if they’re also willing to take on more salary.
But out of all the aforementioned players, Dellavedova has the best chance of sticking around, both because of his leadership and his status as both a fan favorite and a cult hero. If he’s willing to sign a long-term contract on the cheap, there really isn’t a better option at backup point guard as his off-court impact is even greater than his on-court skillset.
He’s spent just three-and-a-half seasons with the Cavaliers, but Matthew Dellavedova will go down as one of the most beloved athletes in Cleveland history. His play is a perfect microcosm of the city; hardworking, high-effort, and not flashy. There’s a chance he may not be here much longer, but a better chance he’s part of this long-term rebuild. Whatever the future holds for Delly, he will be cherished by Cavs fans.