Matthew Dellavedova was never drafted, was never expected to last in the NBA, if he made it at all.
That is why Dellavedova will always be grateful to the Cavaliers. They gave him a shot when no one else would.
They also gave him a championship ring. Or more accurately, Dellavedova earned one while with the Cavs.
Along the way, he became a fan favorite and the poster boy for every kid who’s told he doesn’t fit the profile of an NBA player.
Dellavedova played all four years at a smaller Division I college (St. Mary’s). He’s fairly slow, he can’t really jump and he’s inconsistent from the outside.
But he is here, in the NBA, an ex-member of a Cavs team that played in back-to-back finals, winning the most recent championship over the Golden State Warriors.
Tuesday, Dellavedova will face his former team, the team that gave him his first shot at the pros, as a member of the opponent.
Today, Dellavedova is property of the Milwaukee Bucks. And he still cherishes his time with the Cavs. Tipoff is 8 p.m. in Milwaukee.
“I’m looking forward to catching up with them and seeing them,” Dellavedova told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“Obviously you develop strong relationships and friendships with not only the players, but the coaches and training staff.”
Dellavedova is a 6-foot-4 point guard. He was basically a “walk-on” with the Cavs in 2013, going undrafted but finding a role under then-coach Mike Brown.
Delly’s hard-nosed style and hustle earned him the nickname “Pit Bull” from another beloved ex-Cav, Anderson Varejao (now with the Warriors).
Delly then won over coach David Blatt, followed by current coach Tyronn Lue. But Milwaukee offered Dellavedova more money than the Cavs wanted to pay — so they worked out a sign-and-trade instead of losing him for nothing in free agency.
His last act as a member of the Cavs was the championship parade. He wanted badly to return, but like most everyone who works for a living, he took the available job from the highest bidder.
It’s worked out well for Dellavedova and the Bucks.
He’s started all 15 games and averaging career-highs in points (7.5 per game), assists (6.3), rebounds (2.5) and minutes (29.1). Bucks swingman Giannis Antetenounkmpo has called Delly, “the best teammate I’ve ever had.”
So life is great for Dellavedova under Bucks coach Jason Kidd. Just not as great as life is for the Cavs.
The Bucks remain a young team that struggles to put anything together consistently. They enter the game with a record of 7-8.
Meanwhile, the Cavs still feature LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, and look even better than the team that won the title. At 13-2, they are off to the best start in franchise history.
Dellavedova admitted he’s been paying attention. For instance, he knows all about Love’s 34-point first quarter vs. Portland last week.
“Somebody texted me, or I saw a tweet, and I pulled the game up on my phone,” Dellavedova said. “That’s incredible. They always find the hot hand.”
Nor will this be Delly’s first matchup with Irving. They faced each other in practice every day for three years. Sometimes, Irving would get miffed. Eventually, he grew to love Dellavedova. Probably because Delly was the one guy who truly helped him get better.
Irving and Dellavedova also squared off in the Olympics this summer, Irving with Team USA, Delly with Australia.
But this will be their first meeting in the NBA, and Delly’s first real battle with his former team.
“It will be a little bit funny playing against them for the first time,” he said, “but I should know their tendencies pretty well.”
If anyone should, yes, it will be Dellavedova — the guy who is still very much in tune with the team that offered his first shot.