When Malcolm Delaney signed a two-year contract with the Atlanta Hawks prior to the 2016-2017 NBA season, there was real excitement, both from player and team, about the possibilities. The Hawks had Dennis Schröder entrenched at the top of the point guard depth chart but, in Delaney, Atlanta was set to add a “veteran” rookie (for a cheap contract price) that could serve as more than a capable backup immediately.
The Hawks did experience success with Delaney on the floor (+2.2 points per 100 possessions) in his first season, including an oft-cited stat that Atlanta was actually better with him at the helm rather than Schröder (-2.2 points per 100). Still, there were struggles on the offensive end from the former Virginia Tech and European star, especially in the area of his jump-shooting.
At the outset of training camp, Delaney caught up with Michael Cunningham of the AJC to speak on those issues and what contributed to them.
“The best part of my game before I came here was getting to the free-throw line. That kind of gave me my rhythm for my outside shot. Last year I didn’t get to the free-throw line as much so I wasn’t really confident in my outside shot.”
“I wasn’t used to going 0-for-3, 0-for-2, 0-for-1,” he said. “You look at in two weeks, I’m 0-for-15. I never played like that so that was kind of difficult for me.”
Delaney finished the season with a 45.6 percent true shooting that included 37.4 percent from the floor and a shocking 23.6 percent clip from three. He attempted only 2.7 free throws per 36 minutes (24 percent free throw rate) and, while that isn’t ghastly for a point guard, it certainly seemed to have affected his aggressiveness at times.
It should be noted that Delaney operated as something of a “go-to” scorer, both in college and Europe, and that clearly will not be in his role in Atlanta. At the same time, it is exceedingly reasonable to believe that his shooting will bounce back to some degree and adapting to the NBA game (both in style and in three-point line distance) is often a difficult task for players arriving from extensive time in Europe.
Beyond the on-court struggles, Delaney also opened up about what transpired prior to his rookie year with his brother being critically wounded and his family facing legal troubles. While that kind of off-court influence is difficult to document statistically, it seems quite fair to believe that it would have an impact in terms of basketball performance and, within the AJC interview, he indicated that “everything is good now” with an eye toward his second season in Atlanta.
This is a big year for Delaney in that he will enter restricted free agency after the 2017-2018 season and the Hawks have a developmental prospect in Quinn Cook behind him on the depth chart. While it is always tough to project a player from year one to year two, Delaney’s past performance at every level likely means a positive regression is coming in terms of shooting and, if you examine the rest of his game, there is a lot to like in the steadiness he provides behind Schröder.