There’s still at least six more weeks before training camp opens for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the rest of the NBA, but Cavalier fans are already the most excited they have been about the team since the LeBron James era. While the focus will be on stars such as Kyrie Irving and Andrew Bynum, or important role players like Tristan Thompson and Jarrett Jack, today we will take some time to look at the first player known to have received an invitation to training camp with a chance to earn a roster spot: point guard Matthew Dellavedova.
While Cavalier fans may remember Dellavedova as a member of the team’s Las Vegas summer league squad, there is far more to his story than that. A native of Australia, Dellavedova was recruited to play at St. Mary’s College of California after spending time at the Australian Institute of Sport. Dellavedova is arguably the greatest player in the Gael’s history, finishing his career as the team’s all-time leader in scoring, assists, games played, free throw percentage, and three-point shots. Dellavedova was named first team All-West Coast Conference in 2011, 2012, and 2013, WCC Player of the Year in 2013, and an Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American in 2012, and 2013 while leading the men’s basketball team to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2012 and 2013, the first consecutive appearances in team history. During the summer of 2012, before his senior year at St. Mary’s, Dellavedova had the honor of representing Australia as a member of their national basketball team at the Summer Olympics in London, giving him more international experience at a high level than most collegiate basketball players. Dellavedova acquitted himself quite well at the Olympics, averaging 7.3 points, 4.5 assists, and 3.8 rebounds in 28.7 minutes per game.
So what makes Dellavedova so special? First off, he is an excellent shooter averaging nearly 38 percent on three-pointers and 86% from the free throw line for his entire career at St. Mary’s. Dellavedova is also an excellent passer who works very well playing the pick-and-roll, a must for NBA point guards. In fact, according to this CBS article, Dellavedova’s 1.122 points per pick-and-roll possession was fifth among NCAA players with at least sixty pick-and-roll possessions through last February. This does not take into account the assists Dellavedova generated out of the pick-and-roll as well. Dellavedova is also an excellent passer and ball handler, averaging 6.4 assists versus 2.8 turnovers per game last year, the fourth best rate in the country. These numbers helped Dellavedova to a PER of 21.7 with a .562 true shooting percentage and an offensive rating of 119.7 last year. At 6’4”, Dellavedova has very good size for his position and is seen by both coaches and scouts as leader on the court with an extremely high basketball IQ.
Given the information above, the question now is, why is Dellavedova coming to cam as an undrafted rookie free agent? This comes down to two intertwined subjects, defense and athleticism. Dellavedova is not an elite athlete and lacks great lateral quickness. NBA scouts have trouble seeing him being able to penetrate into the paint or get his shot off over the top of the physically gifted defenders he would see in the NBA. This same lack of quickness and athleticism will make it very difficult to stay in front of opposing point guards. The fact that he only has a 6’4” wingspan despite having that same height also hinders him defensively. Dellavedova did not have the chance to prove otherwise before the draft, as he was not invited to the NBA Combine in May. In addition, Dellavedova will turn 23 on September 8, meaning that it is unlikely he has room for much growth above his current playing level. Dellavedova himself has admitted that the pace of the NBA is much faster than college, and he hopes that his previous Olympic experience will give him an edge as he makes this adjustment.
Dellavedova is coming to Cavaliers training camp with a real chance to win a roster spot as the third point guard. He brings with him an excellent combination of experience and skill that will hopefully help him prove his detractors wrong as he attempts to accomplish his dream of playing in the NBA.