The Cavs have been without the services of both C.J. Miles and Dion Waiters for roughly one week. Dion injured his knee (ironically while dunking on new teammate Spencer Hawes) in the Philadelphia game last Tuesday, while Miles has been out since spraining his ankle in the New York game. The Cavs will likely be without Dion for a few more games, and Miles is likely going to be out until the end of the month. In the meantime, these injuries have forced the Cavs to rely heavily on Jarrett Jack and Matthew Dellavedova in the injured wings’ stead. This, predictably, hasn’t gone particularly well. Jack has been shooting an atrocious 42.5 TS% since his promotion to the starting lineup, and Dellavedova’s scoring has cratered to 14 percent from three and a 36.6 TS%. The gap between the Waiters/Miles combo at shooting guard and the Jack/Dellavedova combo has been readily apparent over the past week, in particular. In the Orlando, Toronto, and Washington games, here is what the Jack/Delly combo has posted:
- vs. Orlando – 14 points (5-17 FG, 1-6 3PT), seven rebounds, seven assists
- @ Toronto – 14 points (5-16 FG, 2-5 3PT), four rebounds, six assists
- vs. Washington – eight points (4-16 FG, 0-7 3PT), five rebounds, three assists
Clearly, Jack and Dellavedova are struggling to score in the place of Waiters and Miles. 3-18 from three-point range and 12 points per game (mostly from Jack, as he receives the lion’s share of the minutes) is quite alarming when only two players play a majority of your minutes at off-guard. If this is going to continue, how can the Cavs maximize their two out-of-position reserve guards?
Maximizing your production from Jack is clearly the most important issue at hand. Jack has played 37.7 minutes per game since Dion’s injury, and he’s not only getting big minutes off the ball, but is also still the primary ball-handler for when Kyrie sits. Jack’s offensive usefulness is largely predicated on spot-up opportunities this season, and he hasn’t gotten much in terms of quality opportunities over the last three games. Jack’s decent at hitting fairly well-contested jumpers, but works best when the Cavs run plays on the opposite side of the floor, and then swing the ball to him. When this occurs, Jack’s defender will collapse to help, giving Jack that tiny extra window to get a quality shot off. This hasn’t happened with Dion and C.J. out. Instead, Jack’s getting his looks out of failed Kyrie ISOs primarily, which doesn’t draw a defender over to help, and most of Jack’s looks have been contested. As a result, he’s shooting very poorly.
This, of course, does not excuse Jack’s terrible percentages from February, as he’s missing plenty of open shots as well. However, putting Jack in lineups that can allow for him to get better spot-up opportunities will help to facilitate his usefulness. Over the course of the season, this has meant pairing him with players like Matthew Dellavedova and Tyler Zeller, and making sure he’s playing with multiple floor spacers. When Jack is the only outside threat on the floor besides Kyrie, he’s easy to key on; when there’s more weapons for other teams to account for outside the paint, Jack gets freed up to do more damage. Over February, this has proven true; lineups including Jack have been stronger when Jack is paired with Zeller, Delly, or Earl Clark as opposed to other lineups. Granted, the root of the problem here might still be Jack and Kyrie’s lack of cohesion on the floor together, a season-long issue. However, adding one of either Delly or Zeller seems to help that. So, while the starting lineup will likely continue to be the same, playing the bench guys more with a Jack/Kyrie backcourt would probably be beneficial to Jack not being God awful.
If Jack’s problem appears to be spacing, then, what about Dellavedova? Delly was on a tear earlier in the season from beyond the three-point arc, but has tailed off considerably since: In December, he hit 50 percent from three, and in February, he’s hit 14 percent from three. The big issue here is where Delly is taking those three-pointers from. In the beginning of the season, Delly kept his three-point shooting mostly to the corners and the top of the key, which are common areas for quality spot-up shooters to rotate to for open looks. However, Delly is taking more and more shots from the wings, where he’s shooting 27.3 percent off the left side and 29.2 percent from the right. Compare that to 35.7 percent everywhere else, and it seems like the fix here is more simple. Dellavedova needs to drift back to more corner threes and above-the-break threes, where he’s hitting more consistently, even at a smaller sample size. Delly’s actually still been pretty strong as a defender and as a passer of late, but if he can fix his shooting, he’ll be more deserving of the huge minutes he’s getting. This in turn will also help Jack out; if Dellavedova is spotting up in areas where he’s actually a threat, it helps stretch the defense out and give Jack more open looks in turn.
These changes aren’t going to fix everything for the Cavs, of course. Jack getting open looks and Delly being in better position on the offensive end won’t solve the Cavs’ perimeter defense issues or make Luol Deng and Tristan Thompson have better shot selection. However, it would help for the next three or four games before both return to the lineup, and would help both guys right their respective ships before March rolls around. More consistency from these two would really open things up for Kyrie as well, and eliminates the need for signing a guy like the recently released Jimmer Fredette, which while incredibly intriguing due to his passing and shooting ability, wouldn’t be as desirable as improvement from within, due to chemistry concerns and the extra money/roster spot issues. If the Cavs can just get leveled out play from Jack and Dellavedova, once Miles and Waiters return, things should be fine as they are in the two-guard slot.