While Anthony Bennett, Sergey Karasev and Carrick Felix have produced next to nothing for the Cleveland Cavaliers this season, there has been one rookie worthy of praise.
Remarkably, he's the only one not to have been drafted.
Matthew Dellavedova, formerly of Saint Mary's College and Victoria, Australia, has been a pleasant surprise for the Cavaliers this season. While much of the attention has been put on No. 1 overall pick Bennett and his struggles, few have focused on the positives "Delly" brings to the Cavs.
Looking past the stats, here's why Dellavedova has been Cleveland's best rookie thus far.
Everyday He's Hustlin'
Coming into the Cavs' November 20th game against the Washington Wizards, Dellavedova had only played 53 minutes all season.
Cleveland, as usual, came out flat and found themselves down 56-38 at halftime. Looking for something, anything, to spark his team, head coach Mike Brown called on one of his smallest and most inexperienced players.
Dellavedova entered the game with an energy not seen from a Cavaliers' player that night. He played 27 minutes, knocking down three-pointers and playing tremendous defense on Bradley Beal. His inspirational play seemed to bring other Cavs to life. Cleveland would cut what was a 27-point deficit in the third quarter to just four in the fourth, before ultimately losing the game.
Even though Cleveland couldn't complete the comeback, people began to notice Delly. The Cavs were plus-21 with him on the court, by far the largest number from any of their players.
After the game, coach Brown had this to say about his rookie point guard, via the Akron Beacon Journal:
“We didn’t compete. We had one guy compete the entire time he was on the floor—Matthew Dellavedova,” Brown said.
With eight first-round draft picks seeing action for the Cavaliers in the game, it was their undrafted player that impressed coach Brown the most.
Beyond the Box Score
For the season, Dellavedova is averaging a modest 3.5 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists in his 14 minutes per game. Most common NBA fans would take a glance at these numbers and not think anything of them.
Looking deeper, however, one can see Delly's impact on the court.
Dellavedova is the ultimate team player. He comes into the game to help move the ball on offense and tries to get other players going first. On defense he's a mosquito: no matter how hard you try to avoid him, he just won't go away.
Just ask Bradley Beal.
Here are some advanced stats, thanks to our friends at 82games.com.
While his individual numbers aren't great, it's the team as a whole that benefits from Dellavedova's presence.
They score almost a whopping 18 points per 100 possessions more, and give up 4.4 less with Delly in the game. Also, Cleveland is plus-20 in scoring with Dellavedova playing, and a paltry minus-138 with him sitting.
As mentioned before, Delly isn't out there for himself, but rather for his team. Few Cavaliers could argue they're doing the same.
Individual statistics be damned, Cleveland is a better team when Dellavedova is on the court, period.
Delly is one of four rookies on the Cavaliers this season. This list also includes the 2013 No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett, 19th pick Sergey Karasev and 33rd pick Carrick Felix.
Most people are aware of Bennett's struggles, as he's been in and out of Cleveland's rotation. Karasev hasn't been much better, seeing just 9.6 minutes of action in 11 games. Felix has spent some time with the Canton Charge of the D-League and has logged just 15 total minutes with the Cavs.
None of them have had the impact Dellavedova has bestowed upon the Cavaliers, despite receiving all the fanfare this offseason.
Take a look at how each rookie's own and opponent PER's stack up, via 82games.
Everyone but Delly is essentially getting murdered by their opponent while on the court.
Dellavedova's opponent PER is the best mark of any Cavaliers player, which is evident by his energy, effort and intensity on the defensive end.
He may not look the part of an NBA player. He may not be quick enough or strong enough by most scout's standards. He may not even play in the NBA after this season.
For the start of the 2013-14 season at least, Matthew Dellavedova has been by far the best rookie on the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Delly has gone from fighting for playing time on the Cavs' Summer League team, to starting games for them less than a month into the season. His work ethic and passion for the game are exciting to watch, as is his intensity while on the court.
Sure, Bennett and Karasev may go on to have better careers. They could even be future All-Stars for all we know.
All of that means nothing right now.
Delly may not have been drafted, but his contributions to the Cavaliers so far have exceeded those of a first overall pick.
All statistics via basketball-reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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