Thirty second summary of last episode:
-Mike Brown is a slow starter / strong finisher
-At his current pace, Tristan Thompson will break Mark Price’s free throw percentage record sometime in about 10 years.
-Even in the early going, the Cavs ranked strongly in defense and rebounding
-Turnovers + terrible shot selection = awful offensive rankings in almost every category: eFG%, FTA, PitP, etc
-Anthony Bennett’s start was an outlier for a #1 pick. The Cavs had not covered the spread in 9 straight games.
CUE late 80’s Rock Ballad Intro!
Welcome to another episode of TRO! You just listened to “Tonight’s the Night” by the Michael Stanley Band. This tune is easily one of the most memorable from my childhood, along with the Lake Business Products jingle. As you, our valued sponges are acutely aware, our mission at TRO is to be wholly interesting, and not necessarily comforting. However, the Cavs have looked better lately, so there are ample amalgamations of interesting data to keep you safe and warm.
Rising Trend: Offensive rating1.
The Cavs are 23 games into the season and their offensive rating stands at 96.9, 27th in the entire NBA. However, the rust is starting to wear off. The chart below shows offensive rating for the Last N number of games.
That’s not an error, the Cavs have posted an offensive rating of 112.7 the last 3 games. Of note, the Cavs posted an offensive rating of 86.4 through their first 3 games of the season.
Offensive rating is the easiest way to demonstrate improved offensive effectiveness, and there really isn’t any single component that stands to tell the story. The Cavs have made gradual improvements in everything! More charts:
%PTS MR refers to the percentage of points the Cavs earn by taking mid-range shots2.
As you can see, the Cavs have improved their approach to offense. Generating free throws, improving shot selection, and effectively setting up teammates are three areas in which they have shown improvement. It’s worth noting that this is the TRENDS section of our episode, in other words, these metrics show a direction, not a ringing endorsement. Even during the last 5 games, the Cavs are in the top half of the league in % of points coming from mid-range, and the bottom half in % of points coming in the paint. They’re not a good offensive team by any means, but they are on the right track to becoming respectable.
After Kyrie’s goose egg game against the Hawks, he’s rebounded well. Last week, when the Cavs went 2-1, he posted 19 assists to only 6 turnovers. If the Cavs have any hope of making the playoffs, Kyrie’s going to need more player of the week awards than goose egg games. This is the most boring ranking TRO has ever dared print, but the budget is tight and we have to save the fireworks for the premiere and finale.
Outliers from the Outback: Matthew Dellavedova’s +/-
I’ve figured out what the Cavs can do to win more games. It’s as simple as playing Matty Super’DOVA more often. I’d been waiting for 82games.com to update and they finally did. I had a hunch that Dellavedova’s +/- numbers were going to be off the charts in comparison to the rest of the Cavaliers. I’d seen too many games where he was the only guy on the team with a positive +/-. It turns out he’s just an insane outlier.
As a team, the Cavs are -5.6 points per game. Usually, when a team is in the negatives, you can take solace in a player’s differential between on court and off court and not the raw numbers. A team may be minus 2 points with player X on the court but if they are minus 20 when the player leaves the court, that is a signal. However, we don’t even need to do that here: in 222 minutes the Cavs are a blistering +10.8 points per 48 with Dellavedova on the court, or in raw numbers, +50 in 222 minutes. DELicious! It gets better, his net plus minus is +20.3! Filtering out sub 100 minutes players, Only Paul George, Kevin Love, and John Wall
and Nate Wolters3 have a more impressive net +/-.
Depending on how it plays out, we may someday look back on Matthew Dellavedova as the player most responsible for “saving” the Cavaliers’ season. With 6:35 remaining in the 3rd quarter of the most embarrassing game of the season, Mike Brown, drowning in a 27-point deficit, at home, to the lowly Wizards, emptied his bench. Dellavedova’s relentless energy infected the team, and they crawled all the way back to within 4 points before falling short. Super’DOVA posted an insane +21 in 27 minutes of action. After the game, Dan Gilbert tweeted:
Perhaps so. And if so, the Cavs have mostly Dellavedova to thank for making the choice to give 100% effort in the midst of the crippling malaise that had infected the rest of the team. Since that time, the team has certainly taken a liking to the young Australian.
While we’ve seen visual evidence of Dellavedova’s tenacity on defense and ability to scrounge up 50/50 balls, it might not be readily apparent how effective he is offensively. His offensive rating of 111 is a major outlier on the team, his assist to turnover ratio is 2:1, and he’s hit 10 of his 22 3-point attempts this season.
The Cavs may have found a diamond in the rough with Dellavedova, or maybe his effect on the team is partially random and his folk hero status will fade with sample size. We’ll know more as the season progresses, but it’s time for him to get more minutes.
1 Offensive rating in this article is NBA.com’s offensive rating which is simply points per 100 possessions. Basketball-reference.com’s O-Rtg is more commonly used in the statistical community. It is more complicated and is explained here.
2 Those unholy abominations that must be stamped out of existence!
3 Edited out to make a more compelling case (holy heck Nate Wolters!)