Shortly after the Cleveland Cavaliers astonishing Game 7 Finals win at Orcale Arena, it was already time for NBA Free Agency to begin. First off, Cavaliers center that was acquired two seasons ago from the Denver Nuggets, Timofey Mozgov, took his talents to Los Angeles, signing a four year, sixty-four-million-dollar contract with the Lakers. Obviously, it was extremely unlikely for the Cavaliers to retain Mozgov, considering the best player in the NBA, Lebron James, and one of the NBA’s best sharp shooters, J.R. Smith, both loomed as free agents. Quite frankly, Mozgov got more money than the Cavs would ever intend to pay him, especially after he fell out of the rotation during the playoffs and had a less than stellar second season in Cleveland.
Mozgov was not the only free agent from the 2016 NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers; other than Lebron and JR, Richard Jefferson and Matthew Dellavedova were free agents as well. Richard Jefferson announced that after Game 7, that his NBA career was coming to a close but then retracted his statement and said he would return to the Cavaliers after peer-pressure from his teammates and fans.
During last year’s playoffs, a report had emerged that the Milwaukee Bucks would be interested in pursuing point guard Matthew Dellavedova in free agency after the conclusion of the season. The Cavaliers were unable to retain Dellavedova as he eventually went to Milwaukee, to play point guard for the Bucks.
Delly, was a restricted free agent. For those who are not very knowledgeable on the difference between an unrestricted and restricted free agent but in short, an unrestricted free agent is a player whose contract has expired with his former team but the team may re-sign him if they wish. A restricted free agent in most cases, is when a player’s contract is restricted but the player is allowed to speak with other teams. The catch is, he can be offered by an NBA team but his current NBA team has the ability to match that offer if they are interested in retaining him.
It was kind of a confusing situation. Initial reports had said the Bucks had offered Dellavedova a four year, $38.4 million deal. The Cavaliers reportedly declined the option to match, ultimately making Dellavedova a Milwaukee Buck. The Dellavedova deal actually became a sign and trade where he signed with the Cavaliers but then was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in a deal involving the rights to Albert Miralles, a Spanish League player that has not played one game in an NBA uniform. The Cavaliers also acquired a $4.8 million trade exception in that deal.
For those who do not recall how Dellavedova’s career started out as a Cavalier, he was actually in the D-League, playing for the Cavaliers affiliate, the Canton Charge. Two years ago, he then was forced to start at point guard for the Cavs in the NBA Finals against the Warriors, due to starting point guard Kyrie Irving sustaining a knee injury. Dellavedova was actually quite impressive in his outing with the Cavaliers, having to stay in the hospital due to dehydration. He left everything out on the court every second he was out there and he gave it 100% every time he was out there. Last season, he played relatively well during the year, but faded down the stretch and was ultimately out of the rotation as the Cavs came back from down 3-1 in the NBA Finals.
Eleven games into this season, the Cavaliers still do not have a true backup point guard. The only two other true point guards on the team besides Kyrie Irving are Kay Felder who is a rookie and has only appeared in two games, and Mo Williams who has not been present for the Cavaliers in an undecided retirement saga. The team does not trust Felder at this point, and nor should they. Head coach Tyronn Lue has resorted to trying to play Iman Shumpert as Irving’s back up in an experiment that has been going better of lately, but still not great.
The Cavaliers are off to a quite impressive start, tied for the best in franchise history. We have seen glimpses of LeBron playing point guard with the bench, which works seeing how James’ best skill is his passing, but that certainly isn’t what the team needs long term. Shumpert has also worked at the position a little bit but putting it nicely, has not exactly worked out for him or the team. The Cavaliers are actively shopping Williams and Felder is hardly playing. This means that the team clearly needs to find a backup. There was initially a buzz that the team was interested in adding Mario Chalmers or Norris Cole (Both Lebron guys from Miami) but clearly there is nothing significant to look into there. On the Chalmers front, he is recovering from a torn achilles suffered last season while playing in Memphis, one thought is that the Cavs are waiting for him to become healthy before attempting to sign him.
The Cavaliers have not necessarily been exposed just yet with their inability to have a backup point guard, but sooner or later it is bound to catch up with them. Dellavedova was one of those guys that could not be replaced. Milwaukee Buck Giannis Antetokounmpo said to reporters earlier this week, “Delly is the best teammate I’ve ever had.” Clearly Delly’s presence in Milwaukee is already being felt 10 games into the season. Through nine games, Matthew Dellavedova is averaging 28.7 minutes per game, 8.2 points per game, 5.9 assists, and a steal. Those are not mind blowing statistics by any means but the Cavaliers could use something just a little like that in their lineup.
The Cavaliers already have the most expensive team in the NBA, and signing Delly would have only increased the amount of money that the team was spending. I worry that if the Cavs do not acquire a point guard before the second half of season or before the playoffs, they will be in trouble. The decision not to keep one of the NBA’s most reliable backup point guards wasn’t all that tough of one to make, but the Cavs certainly need to figure out how to fill this gap sooner or later.