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With Roster Changes, Atlanta is Betting on Malcolm Delaney

Atlanta gave Dennis Schröder the keys to the offense this offseason, but now Malcom Delaney is locked in for a major role, too.

NBA: Preseason-Atlanta Hawks at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks finally pared down their roster in a way that few expected. Instead of dropping either Mike Muscala or Edy Tavares, the team dropped Jarrett Jack (followed by all the point guard training camp signees). With the final, 15-man roster solidified, Malcolm Delaney and Dennis Schröder are the only two point guards on the team.

The rationale behind these moves is easy to understand: Tiago Splitter’s injury makes every big man on this roster much more important. At the same time, though, the point guard situation in Atlanta is now razor thin.

Fans are right to be surprised at these moves. As the AJC’s Chris Vivlamore reported, this was not the original plan. Above all else, though, these roster moves show that the team has a lot of faith in Malcolm Delaney and is willing to bet on his potential.

Malcolm Delaney has taken a long path to the NBA. He played in Europe for several years after graduating from Virginia Tech, but always with the goal of making the NBA. Atlanta made signing Delaney a priority last offseason, and (despite Jarrett Jack’s presence) he was always the front runner for the backup point guard spot.

Delaney’s strengths (while unproven at the NBA level) should add a lot to the Hawks. Atlanta signed him to a cheap contract (2 years, $5 million), looking for nothing more than an average quality backup point guard at a below average price. Delaney can handle the ball well, shoot 3-pointers at an above-average rate, and is tall enough (6’3”) to profile as a solid defender.

Given his physical skills and history of successful playing in Europe, the only reason for concern with Delaney is his lack of experience in the NBA. This is always a legitimate concern, since both the play style and overall level of talent in Europe is far different from professional basketball in America.

Given this inherent level of uncertainty, the Hawks’ bet on Delaney becomes more significant. The roster crunch forced the team to hold on to more big men than would be ideal, and the point guard spot suffered from this lack of space. Atlanta wanted to start the season with three point guards, but clearly feels confident enough in the duo of Schröder and Delaney to go into the year with just two.

Most likely, there will be a third point guard on the roster at some point. If one of the two current ones sprains an ankle or has to sit out for any other reason, the team will be at a clear disadvantage. For now, though, Delaney and Schröder will lead the offense on a nightly basis.

It’s also exciting to see Delaney’s role become even more solidified. His personal story is an easy one to cheer for, and his skills (his shooting in particular) are invaluable to Atlanta. With the roster set up the way it is, Delaney will be in line for significant minutes this season.