His first season with the team was rocky to say the least, but Matthew Dellavedova can still salvage his value within the Milwaukee Bucks organization.
Targeted as a valuable complementary piece just over a year ago, Matthew Dellavedova’s first season as a handsomely-paid member of the Milwaukee Bucks is hard to describe as anything but disappointing.
Expected to serve as the exact type of lead guard that fit the Bucks’ new-found identity, Delly instead produced a frustrating campaign that saw him take on an excess amount of responsibilities and struggle in the areas he was meant to excel in.
Of course, while some of this blame belongs to him, other parts of it have to be placed on the Bucks’ leadership for some stylistic changes that forced both parties into a less-than-ideal situation.
Although he did rebound late in the year to finish at a respectable 36.1 percent clip, Delly’s outside shooting was fairly inconsistent throughout the season. As for his other advertised strength, the Bucks came to find out that his defense may have been overrated slightly as well.
Milwaukee’s defensive rating decreased by 1.5 points per 100 possessions with Delly off the floor, a statistic that may say more about Malcolm Brogdon’s prowess on that end than it does about Dellavedova.
Given his athletic limitations, it’s probably best to avoid matching him up with any point guard with elite speed or quickness (think John Wall or Kyrie Irving), which means he’ll come off the bench for the foreseeable future. After all, there’s no shame in playing behind the Rookie of the Year.
Still though, the issues with Delly’s 2016-17 season went beyond slight regressions in certain areas. Given that he was brought in to space the floor for Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks fans grew tired of watching him pound the ball into the floor like a traditional point guard, in many cases without success.
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He’s not a gifted passer and doesn’t have much experience running an offense, so Dellavedova bringing the ball down the court wound up with stagnant, late-clock possessions.
This change in expected role also led to Delly taking more shots in his areas of weakness (read: inside the arc).
Rather than wait for open shots to present themselves, he would have to force drives to the basket that usually ended in awkward floaters.
Altogether, he shot just 40 percent within three feet of the basket, and 41.7 percent on runners, according to Synergy.
Even so, the main focus for Delly next season should not be to bring up his shooting splits; those should increase due to mean regression and familiarity within the Bucks’ offense.
Instead, he needs to work with Jason Kidd and the rest of the coaching staff to avoid situations in which he’s compelled to take on a larger role than fits his profile. In practical application, this may be easier said than done, such as when Khris Middleton’s injury rendered Milwaukee without one of its only productive perimeter ball-handlers for the first half of last season.
Playing without Middleton wreaked havoc on Delly’s impact last year, his net rating dropping 12.5 points when the former was on the bench. Curiously though, there seemed to be no effect for the same metric applied to Giannis.
Delly’s net rating with the Greek Freak on and off the court was negligible, a difference of 1.5 points. Some of this discrepancy can be explained in that the Bucks were markedly better as a team upon Middleton’s return, but it is simply too drastic a difference to be ignored.
Remember, Antetokounmpo’s skill-set and proposed fit with Delly was one of, if not the only reason the Bucks sought him out in free agency. Doing whatever they can to make the fit between the two work better should be a top priority.
If the Bucks insist on using their point guard in a more traditional manner, there’s a strong case to be made that Delly could see time as a two-guard as he frequently did alongside Kyrie Irving in Cleveland.
Dellavedova’s net rating increased by six points with Irving on the floor during the 2015-16 season, but that effect did not carry over to his pairing with Brodgon. The duo actually posted a net rating 8.4 points lower with Brogdon off the floor rather than on, which seems to speak volumes about each player’s lack of ability in attacking the basket.
As the roster currently stands, Milwaukee would likely need to acquire a third point guard with more ball-handling chops to go with Delly in such a configuration. (NOTE: The author does not endorse a potential Derrick Rose signing).
A more realistic solution would be to transfer the responsibilities of playmaking to more capable hands, as many thought would be the plan with Giannis all along. With Khris Middleton healthy and Jabari Parker out, the Bucks will most likely be starting a smaller lineup with more perimeter ball-handlers.
The lineup of Delly, Tony Snell, Middleton, Giannis, and Thon Maker – essentially the Bucks’ late-season starters minus Brogdon – put up a plus-15.4 net rating last season, according to NBAwowy.
Focusing on ball movement kept the ball from settling in Dellavedova’s hands for too long, and the added spot-up shooting provided more space for Giannis to attack the basket.
Delly can improve his shooting to be sure, but making his second season in a Bucks uniform a better experience for all parties involved will require a collaborative effort.
His skills still make him a good fit for the roster, the question is whether he and the Bucks can bring them out through on-court rotations and offensive philosophy.