The Cleveland Cavaliers won Game 3 of the NBA Finals, fending off a late rally by the Golden State Warriors to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
That LeBron James has been huge in the absence of Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, averaging 41.0 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 8.3 assists per game, is not surprising. That Matthew Dellavedova, the backup point guard from Australia, has stepped up and become a force for the Cavs, has shocked the NBA world.
To put Dellavedova’s impact on the series in perspective, consider this stat via ESPN Stats & Info: 78 of the Cavs’ 96 points (81.3%) in Game 3 involved LeBron or Dellavedova via scoring or assists.
More importantly, Dellavedova’s relentless and smothering defence has been huge in limiting Stephen Curry’s production for most of the first three games. Dellavedova has been so good on defence that Curry went scoreless in Game 3 when guarded by Dellavedova.
Dellavedova’s rise to prominence on the biggest stage is even more surprising considering he only ended up with the Cavs after they won a small bidding war with the New York Knicks following the 2013 draft and then was nearly cut before ever playing a game.
Dellavedova, a senior point guard from St. Mary’s College, went undrafted. However, immediately after the draft he received several free agent offers according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com.
This led to a bidding war between the Knicks and the Cavs that eventually ended up with Dellavedova agreeing to a 2-year, $US1.3 million contract that included just $US100,000 in guaranteed money.
According to Windhorst, Dellavedova was so bad early on in summer league and preseason games that some in the organisation wanted to cut him before the season started and just take the $US100,000 loss. However, former Cavs general manager Chris Grant stuck with Dellavedova.
“There were those in the organisation that did want Dellavedova cut despite the moderate investment in him. But Grant believed in Dellavedova and his potential, he’d liked his temperament and that his constant aggression at the very least would push young star Kyrie Irving in practices.”
Grant is no longer with the team, but his faith in Dellavedova has paid off big time for the Cavs. It is also going to pay off big time for Dellavedova this off-season as he will be a restricted free agent and will almost certainly be a hot commodity for title contenders in need of a workmanlike backup point guard.
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