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Why the Cavs should look to Iman Shumpert at backup point guard

Losing Matthew Dellavedova means that the Cavs need to fill a hole as a backup point guard. While Mo Williams and Kay Felder could get their chances, the Cavs should look at giving Iman Shumpert some of those minutes.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers saved themselves $38 million this summer when they declined to match Matthew Dellavedova's offer sheet with the Milwaukee Bucks. When they did this, they created a small hole in their rotation. Delly, while not a true point guard in the traditional sense, occupied 24.6 minutes per game of backcourt time. That is not an insignificant chunk of time, and the Cavs only have brought in rookie Kay Felder as a potential replacement.

Traditional position roles have led many to believe that those minutes will be divided mostly among the three point guards that are currently on the roster. Kyrie Irving will get more time, Felder would get some rotation run, and Mo Williams will step up and fill the rest. This is a fine theory, and is probably likely, to an extent.

Kyrie playing more is basically a lock, as the potential for him to miss 25 games again is low, and his slow ramp up when he returned resulted in 4.9 less minutes per game than he played in 2014-15. That's a good thing as Kyrie looks to take on more of a load this year. But behind him, filling Delly's minutes with Felder, Williams and Jordan McRae could create some problems. The idea that Felder is ready is probably premature, even if he looked good and grabbed the coaches' attention at Summer League. He will probably be spending more time in Canton next season than on an NBA floor. Williams did get Game 7 minutes, as his fans like to point out, but we can't forget that he's going to be 34 this year, missed half of last season with knee and thumb injuries, and played just 5 minutes per game in 13 playoff games. The idea that he will be healthy AND effective next year is not a given.

If the Cavs look strictly at their conventional point guards, they will have some issues, as there's an overall deficiency in defense between Irving, Williams, and Felder, and we simply can't trust Williams or Felder to be consistent. However, that's the nice thing about having LeBron James. The Cavs do not need a backup point guard in the traditional sense, because they have LeBron's elite playmaking ability to initiate the offense, and they don't need a traditional distributor to take over when Kyrie is not in the game. The Cavs relied on Dellavedova some to create, but more often than not, when he was in, he was functioning as a point guard on defense and a shooting guard on offense. Dellavedova's primary defensive responsibility was to defend opposing point guards, and offensively, when he played with LeBron, the extent of his ball-handling often was to bring the ball up, pass it off to LeBron or another wing, and scurry to the corner to spot up.

So, instead of trying to fit an offense-first one into Delly's minutes, the Cavs could take a unique approach and fully commit to the "nominal" point guard role by giving some of those minutes to Iman Shumpert. The Shumpert/J.R. Smith combination has worked pretty well on the wing in the 18 months they have been Cavaliers, and with LeBron, the Cavs could experiment with playing them with LeBron and two other forwards.

Now, Shumpert has his own flaws. He isn't the most consistent shooter, and hit just 29.5 percent from outside last year while recovering from his wrist injury. He also can be a disaster when tasked with creating off the dribble (shoutout to @CSAviate on Twitter, who will probably see this title and malfunction). However, he fills the primary responsibility of Dellavedova well, as he's able to defend point guards competently and he does make up for his inconsistent shooting by being a skilled slasher, something that only J.R. can match among the Cavs' wing players.

Playing Shump at the one with J.R. and LeBron is a lineup trio that you can do a lot with. Over the last two years, the trio has been incredibly effective, posting a net rating of +23.8 in 113 minutes in 14-15, and going for a +13.5 rating in 255 minutes last season. The reasoning is simple: LeBron takes primary playmaking over, J.R. takes secondary ball-handling duty, and Shumpert then is defending point guards without actually having to handle any point guard responsibilities. You can switch any of the three in the pick-and-roll and remain reasonably well off, as well. Additionally, you can put that group with a variety of different frontcourts, whether you want to go big with a traditional Kevin Love/Tristan Thompson pairing, small with Mike Dunleavy or Richard Jefferson and a big, or even have the Cavs' own version of a death lineup, putting Dunleavy and Jefferson with the trio to have five wings on the floor who can defend a traditional lineup relatively effectively.

This plan puts a lot on Shumpert, and that may be something that he's not entirely ready for. But the Cavs had significant success last year with this combination in a limited sample, posting a net rating of +40.6 in 31 minutes with Shump/J.R. on the floor with no other guards, per NBAwowy. If they can give more minutes to this combination in the regular season, it prepares them to use it in the playoffs, where a switch-happy band of wings who can overwhelm and shoot over smaller guards is a strong unit to pull out for 10 minutes a game.

The Cavs will need to find a way to replace Dellavedova, and there are plenty of options. But while Williams might fit traditional needs, and Felder might be the future, for 2016-17, Shumpert might be the best answer to play the bulk of Delly's minutes.