Matthew Dellavedova fits perfectly with Cleveland Cavaliers, again

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Matthew Dellavedova is back in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform and it feels so right. Here is how he is helping the team and fanbase.

Home crowds often give returning players standing ovations, like when Dwyane Wade checked in for the first time in stint two with the Miami Heat, or as Kevin Garnett took the floor in his second go-around in Minnesota.  But those guys are future Hall-of Famers.

Reserves rarely earn that same treatment. Most role players, however, aren’t Matthew Dellavedova.

The former backup point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers averaged just 7.5 points and 4.4 rebounds in Cleveland’s 2015-16 championship season, yet fans erupted when he stepped on the floor Wednesday night in his first game back at Quicken Loans Arena wearing a Cavs uniform.

The roof nearly blew off the arena when Dellavedova drilled his first 3-pointer. Cavaliers fans felt universal chills when TV play-by-play broadcaster Fred McLeod called the shot a “Delly Tray,” which is easily the most underrated announcer pun in sports.

The Australian played well, scoring 15 points on 4-of-7 shooting. The Cavaliers beat the Knicks in front of a big crowd, 113-106. It was a fun night in Cleveland as the fans freely felt nostalgic watching Delly terrorize New York’s backcourt with intense defense.

That is probably Delly’s most significant attribute: He give Cavs fans a much-needed reason to return to the seats. While some young talent is playing well, the losses are piling up in this rebuilding year.

Their one star, Kevin Love, is out with injury. A potential Hall-of Famer in Kyle Korver was traded. A moderately entertaining player in George Hill is also out. While it wasn’t bare, the cupboard  certainly began lacking the essentials, like bread and canned soup, or whatever the NBA version of that may be.

The addition of Delly is a nod and a wink from the front office to the fanbase. He’s the kind of athlete who is beloved by his own fans and hated by everyone else. Delly played as the team bouncer on the 2015-16 championship squad. He’d get in the face of opposing bullies, standing up for the real stars of the team. Fans liked that. LeBron James liked that. Naturally, fans liked Delly even more because LeBron liked that.

It’s a morale boost, if not for the players, for the fans. He’s even being called a “folk hero” by some. Nostalgia is a powerful emotion. Even Delly was feeling it a little bit on Twitter last week.

The Cleveland faithful can watch Delly pester opposing point guards and knock down triples with that same warm feeling they felt three years ago. It’s a kind, full circle story.

On the floor, the feisty guard acts a defensive antagonist. Strong but not the most athletic, Delly isn’t a lockdown guard. Still, he’s steady if not a really good on-ball defender. In his prime, Delly’s defensive rating hovered around 108. That’s comparable to the likes of Patrick Beverley.

The addition of Dellavedova takes defensive pressure off growing talent like Collin Sexton, Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood. It allows the young crew to focus on offense, potentially limiting their time chasing players like Stephen Curry or Kemba Walker around the floor. It’s a small benefit, but every little bit helps as coaches try to preserve miles on budding talent.

This is a perfect Dellavedova play above. Standing a good 10 feet away from the inbounder, he’s able to force a turnover with an aggressive defensive maneuver that can only be described as Delly-like. Few players put their heart into defense like he does.

Offensively, he’s a smart passer. It’s a skill lacked by the rest of the team’s backcourt, but needed in this bunch. Of all the team’s healthy players, backup center Larry Nance Jr. leads the team with 2.7 assists per game. The squad lacks guys who create well for teammates.

It’s hard for players like Nance to develop as high flying rim-rockers when there are more oops passes than actual alley-oops. Dellavedova fits as a much-needed assist man.

Finally, it’s always useful for top picks to be mentored by a statesman at their position. Marvin Bagley III has Zach Randolph in Sacramento. Jaren Jackson Jr. is partnered with Marc Gasol in Memphis and Wendell Carter Jr. learns alongside Robin Lopez in Chicago.

Sexton learned from Hill, but never really seemed to mesh as the two competed for playing time. Dellavedova seems like the kind of player that would gladly take a back seat to Sexton, guiding him as his sensei.

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It seems like Sexton is ready to learn, adding yet another benefit to Matthew Dellavedova’s return.