Matthew Dellavedova hoping NBA return can be forged through NBL

Matthew Dellavedova is hoping a strong season in the NBL can help him forge a path back to the NBA Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

NBL Champion Melbourne United unveiled Matthew Dellavedova at an introductory press conference on Friday afternoon, with the NBA veteran projected to fill a key role on Dean Vickerman's re-tooled roster.

Set to turn 31 in early September, Dellavedova has endured an interrupted 18 months, managing just 13 appearances with the Cleveland Cavaliers since the pandemic forced the league to shut down in March 2020.

The lack of availability was largely due to complications from concussion, raising question marks about the longevity of the gritty point guard, though Dellavedova denies the move to Australia is the beginning of a career swan song.

"My goal is to get back to the NBA. I feel like I've got a lot more left in the tank, a lot of things to improve on," Dellavedova said.

"There were some talks with NBA teams, nothing concrete at this stage. Overseas there were pretty significant offers, but I've always wanted to come and play here.

"The body is feeling great. That's the main thing, I feel like I just need to put a good chunk of time together training but also games. Playing a lot of minutes and having the ball in my hands, making decisions and things like that. I'm going to have a great opportunity to do that with United.

"A shorter season, long preparation of preseason with the season being pushed back is going to allow me to put a good chunk of work together and be in really good shape and condition."

While the obvious link from United to the NBA is United's Grand Final MVP Jock Landale, it's Andrew Bogut who Dellavedova can draw parallels with on his path back to the U.S.

"For him to come home to the NBL, do really well and then be able to go back and play a role in the NBA helped the league gain more respect. He's a bit of a trailblazer in that way and I definitely looked at that."

Dellavedova projects to replace the role of star point guard Mitch McCarron, who signed with the Adelaide 36ers in free agency. A role he believes he can replicate in NBL 2022.

"He had a great season, he's a great player. He brought a lot of toughness and defensive ability and distributed the ball. I'll come in and do some of those things as well.

Pointing to his ability to defend and distribute at a high level, Dellavedova concedes any path back to the NBA likely hinges on finding more consistency with his outside shot. A 36.6% 3-point shooter across his 447 games in the NBA, that mark has plummeted to 27.6% after being traded from Milwaukee to Cleveland during the 2018-19 season.

The dip coincided with a change in his shot mechanics which was designed to improve his ability to produce a quicker release on the catch, or off the dribble.

"I made some adjustments to my shot a couple of years ago and it hasn't quite paid off yet. The way it's progressing and feeling, I think long term it's going to pay off. There are some things I'm still working on, but I think compared to how I shot it before which used a lot more effort, slower release and harder to shoot off the dribble, [it's an improvement].

"The last two years I haven't strung a lot of healthy games together so that's slowed that progression down, and I think that's why getting a lot of games in a row and more minutes and probably more shots than I would get in an NBA game will help my development as well."

United will enter the season as one of the title favourites in their search for back-to-back NBL crowns, but while Dellavedova looms as a McCarron replacement, the gaping hole left by Landale's presence at the five remains.

"Obviously, it will be a different team without Jock inside and some different imports. Dean has sent some stuff through on Hudl so I'm looking forward to getting into the video and getting down to Melbourne and figuring out how things are going to fit together."

With the NBL season tip-off set for Nov. 18, Dellavedova baulked at the opportunity to repeat Landale's claim from a season ago that United would finish the season undefeated.

"I was on the United staff call and they mentioned that. They said maybe dial it down a little bit. I don't know if I could say anything that would top that," Dellavedova said with a laugh.

For now, he's simply ready to get to work.

"I know how talented the league is and how tough it is. Over the last four or five years being in the U.S., the NBL has a lot of respect now. The talent level and the competition has always been at a high level; it's just the respect level has caught up now."