Matthew Dellavedova has become a player that draws strong opinions. Whether you think he's a dirty player or just a scrappy player - and there are fair arguments both ways - the way he plays basketball draws a reaction. For a player that came to the NBA as an unrestricted agent, getting people to care is a victory in itself.
Statistically speaking, Dellavedova's 2014-15 season wasn't one that makes you think he's a good NBA player, much less one that is in the rotation of a team with NBA title hopes. His overall field goal percentage went down five percent this season - mostly due to the fact that he shot a horrendous 20.7 on two-point attempts - and everything else was virtually the same as in 2013-14 when he was a rookie. There was no major improvement in his game on either end and that's concerning moving forward as Dellavedova heads into restricted free agency.
But, somehow, Dellavedova found a role on a star-studded Cavs team that ended in him having his name chanted at the Q during the playoffs and LeBron James on more than one occasion sing his praises. The obvious hyperbole aside, it's sort of remarkable that Delly found himself a role on a team as good as this iteration of the Cavaliers was.
Dellavedova ultimately found his niche in due part to the limitations of his skill set. While listed as a point guard, he's really an undersized two-guard. He can't really bring up the ball - he struggled in summer league last season as a lead guard tasked with initiating the offense - and he doesn't have great court vision. His tendency to throw lobs up blindly to Tristan Thompson - as much as they somehow worked over and over - are a testament to that.
What he is (sort of) good at is 3-point shooting and playing really, really hard on defense. For the year, Delly shot 40.7 percent from deep on 2.5 attempts per game and overall took 54.4 percent of his attempts from behind the arc. On defense, Dellavedova burned almost all of his energy annoying opposing guards by picking them up past the half court line and chasing them around for the entirety of a possession. He sometimes got beat - he's not quite quick enough to stay with some guards - but the effort was there. His defense doesn't always look pretty - he often looks off balance and one crossover away from becoming another Curry Vine victim - but it worked.
These two skills also happened to fit in perfectly with what the Cavs roster looked like last season. With LeBron and Kyrie Irving handling the vast majority of the ball handling duties, there was no reason for Delly to bring up the ball consistently. And with LeBron and Irving frequently attacking the rim - not to mention the fact that Kevin Love was around as a potential post-up option - he didn't need to be anything else on offense other than a safety valve waiting behind the 3-point line.
That, of course, changed in the Finals when Irving was lost for the series with a fractured kneecap. With the Cavs roster being thin, he pressed into the starting lineup and a heavy, heavy minutes load. During Game 3, Delly had his moment - this is where Cleveland fans chanted ‘Del-ly, Del-ly' over and over - with a 20-point game that was capped off with him grabbing a loose ball, getting fouled and hitting two free throws that sealed the game.
This moment didn't last forever, however. After struggling in the first half of the series, Steph Curry went back to being Steph Curry and Dellavedova went back to being himself and scorched the hardwood Delly teetered on.
The Finals as a whole, however, sum up what Dellavedova is. He plays hard and fits in a niche player, but there's a strict limit on what he can do. Asking him to do too much is setting him up for failure.
It stands that the Cavs can probably find an improved version of Dellavedova this summer. It's not a guarantee, if only because the Cavs have other needs and not a lot of financial wiggle room, but it's possible. In Thursday's draft, players like Duke's Tyus Jones, Utah's Delon Wright and Notre Dame's Jerian Grant might be available with the No. 24 overall pick and be able to create batter than Dellavedova on day one. It's also entirely possible that he signs an offer sheet with another team that the Cavs simply don't want to match.
This tells us that there is a limit on Dellavedova, both in terms of what he can do and how much that's really worth. If another team want to pony up for him, the Cavs should let him walk and if they can find a better version of him on a reasonable contract through the draft or free agency, they should do that too.
Still, Dellavedova, as far the Cavs are concerned, is a player who you want back under the right circumstances. Cleveland fans adore him, his teammates love him, he fills gaps nicely between your best players and plays really hard all the time.
He's made people care about whether he succeeds or fails. In some ways, that's enough.