Time to give Cleveland Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova respect he deserves

The critics of Matthew Dellavedova are the same kind of people who’d find fault with Scooby Doo for having a speech impediment.

He starts with an R when he pronounces every word, they’d say. They’re overlooking the remarkable fact that he’s a dog that can talk. 

Critics of Dellavedova claim he’s dirty or can’t shut down Steph Curry. That’s overlooking the rather huge factor that he’s making it in the NBA despite being an undersized, undrafted foreign guard with relatively limited skills compared to the athletic freaks he goes up against.

When players like this are asked to guard the reigning MVP in a finals series the results are usually catastrophic.

Delly not only did a sterling job on Curry in last season’s finals series, he showed it was no fluke last week on Christmas Day when the unfashionable Cleveland guard contained the stylish Warriors star to 19 points on 6/15 shooting. The home team still won in Oakland but Dellavedova’s effort on Curry will be kept in the memory banks of both teams on the likely chance they meet again in the finals.

This is the same Wardell Stephen Curry II that you may have heard about who has been averaging 30.5 points per game on 51 per cent shooting for the 29-1 Golden State side this season, making fools of some of the best perimeter defenders in the game. Yeah, that guy.

It’s time to give Dellavedova the credit he deserves. The hyperbole of Delly mania which engulfed the early stages of the 2015 finals led to a backlash, especially among Warriors fans, that Dellavedova was just a flash in the pan, especial as Golden State finished the series strongly while the exhausted undermanned Cavaliers faded badly.

Now it’s time to give Dellavedova the hard-earned respect he’s worked so diligently to earn over the course of his two and a half seasons in the toughest basketball competition on the planet.

The 25-year-old Boomer has already earned it from the people that matter most to his career at this point in time – superstar teammate LeBron James, the rest of the Cleveland squad and coach David Blatt.

Hopefully Cavs management recognises his efforts this off-season and comes to the party with a significant upgrade on his $1.15 million contract.

His numbers this season have exceeded expectations in true “Hustle like Delly” fashion.

With All Star playmaker Kyrie Irving sidelined up until last week, Dellavedova has been preferred ahead of veteran Mo Williams for crunch time. Williams was recruited by Cleveland in the off-season to fill the breach left by Irving’s long-term leg injury but even he admitted he should be relegated from the starting five to give Dellavedova more court time.

He has delivered career-high averages in pretty much every category – minutes per game (up to 28.3 from 20.6 last season), he’s making 4.6 from 7.4 field goal attempts (up from 1.7 from 3.3), three-point percentage (41 up to 45), free throws (79 per cent to 89), rebounds (1.9 to 2.1), assists (3 to 5.3) and points (4.8 to 9).

The better stats are not just a result of increased minutes – On a per 36 minutes basis his turnover rate is down from 2.0 to 1.7 and his points (9.6 to 11.4) and assists (5.3 to 6.7) are also trending in the right direction.

There’ll always be external negativity in the life of a professional sportsperson – the latest for Delly was the embarrassing gaffe made by under-pressure Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek who somehow confused him with Iman Shumpert in a case of mistaken identity so bad it would be too implausible to be a Specsavers ad.

It’s no mystery that this meddling kid is getting away with a few minor crimes with his dogged defence to put opponents off their game.

But if he’s not playing his hard-nosed style he’s not in the league. You’ve got to respect that.

By: Paul Suttor, Sydney Morning Herald

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