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2015-16 Cleveland Cavaliers player review: Matthew Dellavedova

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The Cavs' polarizing, quirky, ankle-biting point guard delivered his best season yet in 2015-2016. With his free agency looming, we look back at Delly's year.

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Matthew Dellavedova played just 46 minutes in the NBA Finals. In that time, the Cleveland Cavaliers had a 65.9 offensive rating and 125.4 defensive rating. He got buried on the bench slowly over the course of the series, to the point where Mo Williams got a significant run of playing time in Game 7. The Finals were, to some, a confirmation of all of the tired narratives surrounding Delly: That he was too slow, that he gets exposed by more athletic point guards, that his stats sometimes are an anomaly and don't reflect his actual (Read: Much lower) worth.

These things might have been true in Delly's rookie season, when he was often playing well above his head and there was a definite inflated perception of his abilities. Outside of the Finals, however, Delly spent the 2015-2016 season proving his worth, and then some. Simply put, there was not a player on the Cavs who improved more this year than Delly, and his play as the backup point guard was hugely helpful to the Cavs all season long.

Delly's improvement came almost across the board. The only per-36 stat he didn't improve in over 2014-2015 was in rebounding, where he fell from 3.3 rebounds to 3.1. Otherwise, his per 36 numbers were almost all career highs, per Basketball-reference:

Year Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG% 3PT% FT%
2014-2015 8.3 3.3 5.3 0.6 0.1 36.2 40.7 76.3
2015-2016 11.0 3.1 6.5 0.8 0.2 40.5 41.0 86.4

Most importantly sticking out there are Delly's assist totals, which was the most noticeable area of improvement. Delly has always been a decent passer around the perimeter, but he'd really struggled in the past against pressure with the ball in his hands. And while his lobs to Tristan Thompson have always seemed to defy physics, his overall playmaking ability looked much better this year. He was much more comfortable attacking in the pick-and-roll, and didn't panic against a double-team like he had in the past:

via GIPHY

He still struggled to hit shots in the lane, shooting just 44.4 percent inside three feet. But that improved passing ability made him a better all-around offensive weapon, because it made him more of a threat than just a spot-up shooter. The Cavs were able to rely on Delly as more of a playmaker this year, and while his turnover rate was still pretty high (17.7 percent, which is not good), he led the team in assist-to-turnover ratio, which shows just how much more he was able to do when running the offense.

However, that's still where Dellavedova made his mark. A career 39.8 percent shooter, Dellavedova had a hallmark catch-and-shoot year, hitting 46.3 percent of his catch-and-shoot threes, and even knocking down an impressive 57.9 percent of his twos off the catch. His funky delivery, in which he looks like he's jumping as high as he can without getting any vertical increase in his release point, is still working well, and it's become an expectation that when Delly gets an open look, he's draining it, especially from the corner.

Defensively, Dellavedova was slightly better than he was in 14-15. He defended threes more successfully in 14-15, forcing opponents to shoot 3.3 percent worse, as opposed to just 2.4 percent this year. His on-ball defense, which is pestering but not very effective against perimeter scorers with elite athleticism, is still a source of contention among fans, and could still stand to improve, especially given what happened when he was tasked with guarding Kyle Lowry and Steph Curry in the final two rounds of the playoffs.

However, Delly's impact defensively was made in team defense this year, where he looked as comfortable as ever switching onto bigs, fighting through screens, and rotating to open shooters. The Cavs were 4.8 points/100 possessions better defensively with Dellavedova on the floor in the regular season, and he was again a part of some of their best defensive lineups, most notably the Delly/Williams/LeBron James/Kevin Love/Thompson grouping that posted a defensive rating of 67.3 in 40 minutes early in the season.

Ultimately, Dellavedova is probably the free agent the Cavs have the biggest decision to make on this summer. He showed this season that he was good enough to potentially even get starter's minutes somewhere, and teams like the Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks will definitely come calling with decently-sized offers. And while upgrades may be available out there, his unique fit in this locker room and as a foil to Kyrie Irving are sure to be valuable if he comes back. There's no one available who could totally fill in his specific role on this team, and it's worth noting that he'll only be 26 next year and there's still room for mild growth in his game. Whether the Cavs are able to retain him at reasonable value remains to be seen, but Dellavedova is an important part of this team, and they should do everything they can to make sure he's in wine and gold for the title defense.