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Taking ‘Em to Secondary School – Lecture 2: Chaos Theory

“Chaos: When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.”

Edward Norten Lorenz, Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?


It’s the sophomore installation of “Secondary School,” and the lesson that follows dabbles in philosophy and physics–not just the physics of laying pipe, or fuck-you threes.  

From a young age we have always heard people say, “don’t judge a book by its cover.”

I will admit that I wanted to go into this article and write about Matthew Dellavedova and JR Smith’s from the perspective of how stark their differences are; but on the venn diagram of the tattooed pipe laying JR Smith, and the English-teacher-looking Delly (aka Outback Jesus) I found that the similarities between the two were not only far more common than I imagined, but also far more interesting.


I want to start with the concept of chaos theory.

Double-compound-pendulumChaos theory is the field of study in mathematics that studies the behavior of dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions—a response popularly referred to as the butterfly effect. Small differences in initial conditions (such as those due to rounding errors in numerical computation) yield widely diverging outcomes for such dynamical systems, rendering long-term prediction impossible in general.”
Sara Jacobovici, Revealing the Shadow of Complexity

In other words, you cannot predict what is going to happen, you see this pendulum, this perfectly represents JR and Delly’s games.  

Act I – JR Smith

It is more simplistic for a casual viewer to see the chaos JR Smith brings to the court. I mean, there is this video about him after-all.

JR has learned to tame the chaos, or at least massage it into efficiency.  He now shoots contested threes when he is hot, as opposed to constantly, and he’s made improvements at shaking his defender using both cuts and dribbles.  JR is quietly having the most efficient year of his career, culminating with an outstanding three point percentage of 40% and True Shooting percentage of 67.3% in this year’s playoffs thus far.

Stats only tell part of the story of why JR confuses the shit out of defenders (and everyone else). At .54 seconds, you see JR resort to a slick stepback. At 1:38 JR just catapults backwards and lets it go with no regard for the laws of time/space/basketball. What sets him apart from other elite shooters like Kyle Korver, is the ways he gets his shots are mind bogglingly varied, he shoots of either foot, off passes, off dribbles, and from every which angle.

Not to mention that when he has taken it to the rack, he is capable of explosive dunks and slick finishes, especially because defenders are forced to play very tight on him by the three point line.

JR’s 63.7% percent FG from within three feet only attests to the fact that when he does take it to the hole, is tends to get a bucket. This threat becomes even more exaggerated when the opposing team is forced to put their weakest defender on JR due to Cleveland having other larger scoring threats on the floor. Below you can see an example of his inside prowess.

A haiku about the enigma that is JR’s game:

Swish knows no boundaries

hand in face free in mind

My release is pure


Act II – Matthew Dellavedova

Cleveland Cavaliers' Matthew Dellavedova, front, tangles with Atlanta Hawks' Kent Bazemore during the second half in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals of the NBA basketball playoffs Sunday, May 24, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) ORG XMIT: OHMD136

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

So how does Delly represent chaos?

On the surface, he’s an unassuming Australian dude.  In fact, Delly was a big pain point for Cavs fans last year: the general sentiment was that he was barely 3rd string quality. The front office went after Mo Williams in hopes of finding a quality second stringer to back up Kyrie Irving. Turns out Delly said “fuck that” and improved massively over the offseason.  He improved to the degree that Mo was soon riding the bench and rarely breaking the rotation. The fact is, he went from a hustle/defense specialist, to a legit backup floor general who can pass, shoot and score down-under (in his own special ways). Delly’s game itself is not only rooted in chaos, but the way his entrance drastically changes the Cavs offense is also chaotic.

Let’s start by examining the chaos is dellys game

#1: Is it a floater or an alley oop, wtf mate?

Every Cavs fan knows that Delly and Tristan Thompson have a bromance that only two men hailing from former members of the commonwealth of England could possibly understand.  The two videos below show Delly ‘ooping it to Tristan, and Delly making floaters. Notice that Dellys actual floaters are like the drunken uncle version of Steph floaters, but sometimes they go in and sometimes they end up as Alley-oops – who the fuck knows which one is intended at any given time.

#2: That is his three form, wtf mate?

His release is far from perfect looking, but he ranked 13th overall in 3 point percentage with 41%. Sooo, who gon’ stop him, huh?

#3: Even Point Guard, Coach and GM LeBron trusts Delly’s game enough to let him run the offense when they share the floor. (watch out this video for more  cases of the “floater or ‘oop?” game.  wtf, mate?

#4: He used to drink black coffee before games.  wtf mate?


“An hour before every game, Cavaliers backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova has a routine of sipping on a cup of steaming hot coffee.
Not Gatorade, not Powerade, not water, but coffee. Black coffee, to be exact. No sugar, no cream. Nothing.
‘It gets me going. It’s something I’ve always done,'”
Chris Haynes, Matthew Dellavedova’s ritual of drinking coffee prior to games paid off in Cavaliers’ win over Pacers

Delly’s team-wide chaotic effect is best expressed through his on/off court effect relative to Kyrie.  Cleveland’s offense will lurch from Kyries bombastic fluid offensive barrage to the Herky-Jerky – but oddly effective – game of Matthew Dellavedova.  According to SportsVU, Delly is ranked 4th in the NBA in Assist to Turnover Ratio despite being one of the most pass heavy bench players.

Switching from Kyries game to Delly’s game is a nightmare for opposing teams because their two styles are complete night and day: you go from the slickest handles on planet earth, to a dude who just runs really fast at you, daring you to steal the ball like a semi-pro rugby player at the Y.

“That’s some Australian stuff,” center Tristan Thompson said. “I don’t know. I can’t do that. Whatever gets him going I’m rolling with it, especially if he’s making them shots.”


khaosA haiku about the enigma that is Delly’s game:

My coffee is black

My lobs are my floaters

My game has evolved


Act III: Fin

Cleveland needs to bring their chaos to the court if they are going to come out of a series with the Warriors alive.  They need to expose kinks in Steve Kerr’s perfect schemes.

If they want to beat the Thunder, they have to beat the King of Chaos himself, Russell Westbrook.

The Raptors have seen the glory of “the Pipe down under” and know that resistance is futile, they know chaos theory is one of the reasons a fucking meteor killed the dinosaurs.

For Cleveland’s sake, they best hope that JR and Delly continue to be beautifully unpredictable and that maybe.. Just maybe Delly can tell Kyrie how to guard Steph.

By Mitch Suchan