INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- It was a pretty simple question: How does Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt delineate his team’s depth chart at point guard?
“We have three and even under the circumstances four guys that can play the position of ball guard or point guard if you want to call it,” Blatt said after practice Friday, referring to Kyrie Irving, Mo Williams, Matthew Dellavedova and Jared Cunningham. “We’ve managed to grow in that category obviously with Kyrie coming back.”
Other than Irving as the team’s obvious top option at the 1, Blatt was vague about the rankings beyond that. A reporter followed up, asking Blatt whom he considers to be his primary back-up point guard.
“I understood the meaning of your question the first time you asked it and I didn’t answer it,” Blatt said.
Perhaps he was being evasive because the truth is uncomfortable. Dellavedova clearly has surpassed Williams as Blatt’s most trusted back-up, averaging 28.3 minutes to Williams’ 25 this season.
The playing time disparity has been even more pronounced since Irving returned, with Dellavedova averaging 27.3 minutes compared to 12.3 for Williams, which doesn’t include the DNP-CD Williams received against Phoenix.
Yes, things have changed for Williams, who not that long ago was carrying the Cavs in Irving’s absence, scoring 20-plus four times during a six-game stretch in early November.
While Dellavedova’s durability as a 25-year-old has helped him carve out his role, Williams, 33, has missed three games because of a sore lower right leg and later two more games with a sprained right thumb. But more important, the third-year guard’s play has improved noticeably this season compared to last year.
Dellavedova ranks fifth in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio at 3.33-to-1. He also is shooting 44.4 percent from 3-point range, which is considerably better than Williams’ 34.7 percent mark (and a better percentage than Williams, who has a reputation as an elite jump shooter, has ever connected on during his 13-year career).
When pressed for the reason he punted when given the opportunity to name his back-up, Blatt pointed to the pair’s versatility.
“Because it’s situational, it really is more situational than anything else,” Blatt said. “And those two guys could find those guys playing together. That’s the reason.”
It’s true and it’s the reason why Williams likely will be able to hold on to some kind of role in the rotation even as Irving’s playing time increases. Blatt said Friday that the Cavs are “getting close to being beyond that” when it comes to a minute restriction for Irving, adding, “we’re at the point where he’s back, more or less.” Even with Irving’s minutes going from the mid-20s to the mid-30s, there will be nights when J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert aren’t making shots and Williams will get run at the 2.
“I think the great thing about those three guys is they both can play multiple positions,” LeBron James said. “All three of them. You can play Delly, Mo and Kyrie at the 1 or the 2, so you can always have two of them on the court if need be, if you needed to have it. It definitely adds another ball handler on the court as well. The three of our point guards are very smart so it definitely helps our intelligence out.”