SAN FRANCISCO -- This past Sunday, when mapping out his to-do list for the Cleveland Cavaliers before February’s trade deadline comes and goes, general manager David Griffin described finding a rim protector as his utmost priority, but he also had this to say:
“I think it’s clear that point guard depth is something we need to address.”
In the days that followed, Griffin made a pair of moves to get the big man he desired, in Timofey Mozgov from Denver, and also give his team some wing depth, in Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith from New York.
Yet before the flurry of activity by the GM was over, the Cavs got weaker -- not stronger -- at the point guard position, as they cut backup A.J. Price prior to the six-year veteran’s contract becoming fully guaranteed for the rest of the season on Wednesday.
Although Price’s averages of 2.0 points and 1.2 assists in 7.9 minutes per game with Cleveland this season were obviously underwhelming, the Cavs options to replace him with another backup point guard, now that they have an open roster spot, appear to be limited.
A look at HoopsHype’s list of the top free-agent point guards right now isn’t too inspiring. There are a couple you could talk yourself into, such as Eric Maynor, who had some success with Utah and Oklahoma City a few years back, Peyton Siva, who had an outstanding college career at Louisville, Nolan Smith, who played with Kyrie Irving at Duke, Darius Morris, who showed excellent athleticism if not the best instincts in his time with the Lakers, or even Daniel Gibson, who played with the Cavs during LeBron James’ first stint with the team.
Then again, you could talk yourself out of those guys pretty easily as well. There are other names out there -- Milwaukee just waived Nate Wolters -- but the Cavs tried the unproven Will Cherry for the role earlier in the season, and you get the feeling they would lean more toward a veteran to direct the veteran talent they already have.
They could try to trade the promising but suddenly redundant rookie wing Joe Harris to procure a point or try to dangle a second- round pick or two to a team with a point guard not being used. When the Cavs go to Sacramento on Sunday, the Kings will have one of those guys who fits the bill, with former Cav Ramon Sessions sitting on their bench, for instance.
One thing that seems increasingly clear is the team isn’t comfortable going into the second half of the season with Matthew Dellavedova as the primary backup point guard.
“We’re going to have to see,” was all coach David Blatt said Saturday when asked about Dellavedova’s role moving forward. “We’re going to have to see how that develops.”
It was a far cry from the support Blatt showed for Dellavedova earlier in the season. When Dellavedova missed 15 straight games because of a strained MCL in his left knee, the coach would often lament how much they missed his presence on the floor.
When Dellavedova did return in early December, he had a string of a few successful games in a row -- two points, three rebounds, three assists and a block in a win against Brooklyn; six points, five assists and three rebounds in a win against Toronto; 14 points, five rebounds, four assists and a steal in a loss against Oklahoma City, while playing staunch defense on reigning MVP Kevin Durant, of all people -- but he caught a stomach bug in New Orleans after that and has been sporadic at best since.
Dellavedova wants the backup point guard duties to be his.
“I feel confident I can fill that role,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to getting used to playing with these [new] guys, and once we can put in what packages that we have and can run, I think that will help out a lot as well.”
Teammates still often go out of their way after a win to include Dellavedova’s name when mentioning the top performers, believing the second-year guard made an impact, even if the stat sheet didn’t reflect it.
But his numbers -- 4.6 points on 32.1 percent shooting, 2.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists against 1.2 turnovers in 23.2 minutes per game for a PER of 6.15 -- have been lackluster.
On the bright side, he is shooting 40 percent on 3s -- an improvement from the 36.8 percent mark he hit as a rookie and also a necessity for the Cavs’ offense to run as efficiently as it can, so long as guys on the perimeter are converting the catch-and-shoot chances Irving and LeBron James’ drive-and-kicks are creating.
He’s been jerked around the lineup because of recent injuries to James and Shawn Marion -- “In the starting lineup for a bit at the 2 and then at the 1 and coming off the bench,” the man they call “Delly” said Saturday -- and remained the type of teammate who posts a photo on Instagram of a card game he was playing on an off-night with Harris as well as rookie Alex Kirk, the night after Kirk was traded from Cleveland to New York.
“We’ve asked a lot from Matty, in terms of his different kinds of contribution,” Blatt said. “He hasn’t been in the same mode for different reasons at different times during the season, but he’s a character kid, and he gives us everything he has, regardless of how we use him. That’s why he’s great to have on the team.”
Dellavedova’s value as a locker room guy is unquestioned when you hear how his teammates talk about him. But his value as a major rotation guy? That is yet to be determined, as Blatt said.
Dellavedova’s net -37 plus/minus rating this season ranks 322nd out of the 453 players to suit up in this NBA, according to SportingCharts.com.
Whatever the numbers bear, Dellavedova does truly seem to be woven into the Cavs’ fabric. Before the team had its shootaround at the Olympic Club on Friday in downtown San Francisco, Mike Miller called out across the court to Dellavedova as they were both tying their sneakers.
“Why aren’t we practicing at St. Mary’s?” Miller asked, nodding as Dellavedova explained his college was about a 50-minute drive away. “Do they have your statue up on campus yet?”
No, there’s no monument for a guy such as Dellavedova, who is now in Year 2 of his improbable NBA career, after being undrafted following four years with the Gaels.
He’s molding his own sculpture with every day and continuing to carve out a niche with the Cavs.
“A lot has happened in a year and a half,” Dellavedova, back near his old college stomping grounds and reflecting on his career, said Saturday. “Probably a lot more than happens for some other guys, with a coaching change and different trades and that kind of thing. I guess, yeah, it’s a bit of an introduction to what kind of happens day-to-day in the NBA.”