It is fitting that two of the three players on the podium after last night’s series clinching win over the Chicago Bulls were Matthew Dellavedova and Tristan Thompson. After all, they contributed mightily to the Cleveland Cavaliers blowout victory in the Windy City.
Most of the press surrounding this year’s Cavs have fittingly been about the team’s “Big Three”, the triumvirate of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love, all-stars who probably rank among the NBA’s top 25 players.
Then you have the three players who were acquired in trades in January: J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Timofey Mozgov, who contributed greatly from elevating the team from the .500 mark at the time of the deals into the team that had the best regular season record from the time of the trades until the end of the campaign.
No doubt they are primary reasons the wine and gold are one of the four teams remaining in the NBA playoffs.
Thompson and Dellavedova are the quintessential players who are perfect fits on good teams.
There are a bunch of NBA players who are good players on non-playoff rosters. Until this year, Evan Turner is the guy who fits that bill for us. They are stat compilers. On those teams, somebody has to take shots, score points, and grab rebounds. That doesn’t mean they are good players. They are just the best player on a bad team.
Some players have skill sets that don’t fit with bad teams.
Think about both Thompson and Dellavedova on last year’s Cavs team.
Thompson was highly criticized because of his lack of offensive game and that he wasn’t more of a shot blocker. Those were things the pre-LeBron Cavaliers needed. So much of the offense depended on Kyrie Irving, and since Thompson was the fourth overall pick in the draft, people felt he should be able to contribute on that end of the floor.
With the addition of James, Love, and Smith, Thompson no longer needs to score, and Mozgov takes the role of rim protector.
So, Thompson does what he does, which is provide energy and is a monster on the glass, exactly what this group needs. And he does it as at a high level. Those things are important on teams that are competing for a title.
As for Dellavedova, his ball handling is questionable, which made him a target for critics, especially because the guy he backs up might be the best dribbler in the league.
And if he was forced to play 30-35 minutes on a nightly basis, his warts, that is to say, the reason he wasn’t drafted, would show through.
But he doesn’t have to play those kind of minutes in Cleveland.
What Delly does do is play gritty defense on both point guards and shooting guards alike, and can stick the occasional three-point shot. He’s a solid passer, being able to find the open man. He’s added a penetration move this year which he caps off with a lob pass to Thompson or Mozgov for dunks.
Last year, when the Cavs were headed for the lottery, he was a guy that we wondered why he got the time he received from then head coach Mike Brown.
We get that coaches love him, he plays hard and defends. But a bad team needs more from the back up point guard.
Again, on a winning team, Delly fits perfectly.
If they left the Cavs and went to lottery teams, the fans in those cities would probably be disappointed by what they would get out of either player.
However, on a winning team, they possess skill sets that playoff teams need.
What a difference a year makes.