LeBron James makes his teammates better. So does Kevin Love. And so does Kyrie Irving.
That's what the league's best players do. By virtue of their abilities, these talents make opposing teams focus on them so much that it creates opportunities for everyone else to succeed. It also helps hide the flaws of role players and makes them useful in the right context. But having a star player (or, in the Cavs' case, three) can force teams to have less patience in bringing along a young role player.
Matthew Dellavedova is one of those players. He is coming off of his rookie season, but he's already 24 and has a limited upside. He also struggles as a ball handler, which effectively turns him into an undersized shooting guard. You simply can't play Dellavedova at point guard for long stretches. This really puts restrictions on his potential and makes his NBA future murky. If he can't bring up the ball against in Las Vegas Summer League taem, how could you ask him to bring up the ball against an actual NBA team?
He does a few things well, however. Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal said he was a pest and named him one of the top-three one-on-one defenders in the NBA. He can defend both guard spots. He's also a good 3-point shooter at 36.8 percent and a decent true shooting percentage of 53.4 percent. On offense, Dellavedova seems to know what his limitations are he sticks to those limitations. Through this lens, Delly is an ideal three-and-d player. For example:
Here is Dellavedova defending Beal. The Wizards start by trying to get Beal an open 3-point look by setting a double screen in the paint.
Beal, who has a quickness advantage over Delly, gets open and gets the ball. The Wizards do an excellent job in forcing Dellavedova to work through the screen, but he gets through. Beal is forced to reset and Delly applies the pressure.
Washington then tries to run a pick and roll for Beal. Delly cedes Beal the baseline in order to force Spencer Hawes onto Beal and ideally get the ball out of Beal's hands and force Washington to take a bad shot at the end of the shot clock.
Beal, however, is quick enough to pull up and shoot. But Dellavedova doesn't give up and trails Beal, creating a little contact in the process. He isn't quick enough to fully recover, so he alters the shot from the back.
This view of Dellavedova, the mix of good and bad, is what makes him interesting and infuriating at the same time. At the end of the last season, pre LeBron's return and the Kevin Love deal, he had his role. As a fourth guard, Dellavedova earned minutes in Mike Brown's rotation due to his defense and abilities as a spot-up shooter. On spot-ups last season (which accounted 33.8 percent of his offensive plays, by far the highest percentage) Dellavedova scored 1.08 points per possession.
Here, Dellavedova shows that he's comfortable in this position. The Boston Celtics' defense hounds Tristan Thompson in the middle and Dellavedova recognizes this. He gets him in a position to catch and shoot if Thompson kicks the ball out.
Thompson gets him the ball and Delly, although his release is a little show and jerky, gets the shot enough in more than enough time.
A similar output this season, with an increase in the 40.9 percent he shot on spot-ups, could make him a sneaky useful weapon for the Cavaliers' offense. It's not hard to see Dellavedova getting clean looks from 3-point range this season when James or Irving penetrate or when Love is double-teamed in the post, forcing the Cavs to swing the ball around the perimeter in search of an open shot. And while 24 isn't especially young in basketball years, there's plenty of time for Dellavedova to keep improving as a player.
Of course, the revamped roster also could make Dellavedova's chances of seeing significant playing time lower. A year ago, he only played 17.7 minutes per game. But in the last 15 games of the season, Dellavedova only played less than 20 minutes once. The increase in minutes Dellavedova got came in large part due to what he was good at and, save a handful of erratic plays when handling the ball, making few mistakes.
With Mike Miller now on the roster, there's now less room on the wing for Dellavedova. At best, he sees the floor 15 minutes a game this season. Miller gets the nod over him based solely on his shooting. He falls behind Waiters due to Waiters having a better all-around skillet. Waiters is also two-years younger than Dellavedova and has higher overall upside. Plus, with Waiters likely turning into more of a spot-up shooter this season, there will be even fewer opportunities for Dellavedova. This doesn't mention the potential addition of Ray Allen, free agent signing James Jones and the gluttony of backup point guards the Cavs signed this offseason.
Everything considered, Dellavedova is a flawed player with a relatively defined ceiling. What he is right now - a scrappy defender with a decent 3-point stroke - is relatively what he'll be over the course of his career. It doesn't seem likely he develops above average ball handling skills to be a reliable backup point guard. But he has a specific set of skills, namely his defense and decent 3-point shooting that make him a guy who can be a role player on a good team if given an opportunites.
But his limitations could also help him find himself out of a team's rotation, on the bench and playing if someone goes down with injury or the Cavs face a team with strong guard play. In the end, Dellavedova's strengths and weaknesses will define him, for better or for worse.