On March 1, the Cleveland Cavaliers had just lost their second-consecutive game to fall to 17-43 on the season, simultaneously losing starting point guard and No. 5 overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft Darius Garland to a groin injury in the process.
In their very next game, the Cavaliers elected to slide rookie shooting guard Kevin Porter Jr. into the starting lineup against the Utah Jazz. That moved franchise cornerstone Collin Sexton back over to point guard after playing 77% of his minutes at the two this season, compared to playing 100% of his minutes at the one last season, per Basketball-Reference .
With every guard on the roster moving up a spot on the depth chart, it paved a way for Aussie guard Matthew Dellavedova to take on an increased role.
In that very first game with an uptick in playing time - a then-season-high 29 minutes - Dellavedova made the most of his opportunity, showcasing that his veteran playmaking skills pair him nicely with Sexton, as Delly dished out a game-high nine assists.
In fact, he played so well that he overtook the other starting guard spot, assuming a role as the starting point guard, which allowed Sexton to move back to shooting guard.
The move ended up being in the best interest of the Cavaliers - not just for the present, but the future as well.
What Cleveland discovered over that small five-game sample size was that Sexton, the No. 8 overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft, plays really well next to a pass-first point guard.
After Dellavedova dished out nine assists against the Jazz, he only had four assists as a starter against the Boston Celtics. But then his playmaking really took off, as he went for a career-high 14 assists in an upset win over the Western Conference juggernaut Denver Nuggets, followed by 11 assists against the San Antonio Spurs and eight dimes against the Chicago Bulls.
He averaged 9.2 assists over the five-game span, and Sexton was the biggest beneficiary.
Sexton had already begun to turn things up over the past couple of months, but his five games alongside Delly's significant increase in playing time were some of the best of his young career.
The Alabama product was scoring at a higher rate and shooting more efficiently while drastically increasing how often his made baskets were assisted on. Take a look at the splits:
|Prior to last five games||Category||Last five games|
Over that span, no player assisted Sexton more times (11) than Dellavedova, and the majority of those helpers came on the exact same set. With a pass-first point guard like Delly running the show, he made it look easy finding Sexton for open layup after open layup when head coach J.B. Bickerstaff called this same play.
As you can see, it's as simple as staggered off-ball screens on the perimeter freeing up Sexton for open layups, but Dellavedova was able to get the ball to the team's go-to scorer every time just from keeping his head up and finding the passing lane to the No. 1 option.
There were also different variants of this play, allowing Dellavedova and Sexton to read and react to the defence, which in both instances also led to buckets from different spots on the floor.
Lastly, with Dellavedova's patience at point guard, the Cavaliers were even able to run a side-out inbounds play for Sexton to create a wide-open look from 3. Delly sat back while the play developed, giving Sexton time to get around a couple of screens for a catch-and-shoot 3-ball.
Running the point his entire rookie season, followed by sliding over to shooting guard next to score-first rookie point guard Garland, Sexton had never really played significant minutes alongside a pass-first guard.
That five-game experiment alongside the Aussie veteran could bode well for the Cavaliers' future and the franchise agrees, as it recently signed Dellavedova to a one-year, veteran minimum deal to remain in Cleveland for the 2020-21 season.
The Cavaliers saw Dellavedova give the franchise its blueprint for what could make Sexton most successful down the road as he progresses as Cleveland's cornerstone this upcoming season.
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