Story by KL Chouinard
Malcolm Delaney didn’t play like a rookie, even though it was his first NBA season.
Perhaps that isn’t a surprise. The 28-year-old made his stateside pro debut after spending five seasons abroad in Europe. He brought a steadiness to the backup point guard position beyond that of a typical first-year player. His net rating of +2.2 points per 100 possessions – the second-best mark among Hawks regulars behind Tim Hardaway Jr. – showed that the team played well under his direction. Among Hawks who played more than 30 games, Delaney led the team in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.03), demonstrating a care with the ball while still keeping the team in the flow of its offense.
Delaney also proved himself to be a capable defender with active hands, a facility for fighting over screens, and an awareness for making the correct rotation quickly. The Hawks yielded just 100.0 points per 100 possessions with Delaney on the court, compared to 104.5 points per 100 possessions when he was off it.
At the same time, Delaney wants to be able to do more. In Europe, he was a high-volume scorer on championship-caliber teams who routinely led his European divisions in minutes. Getting a feel for his new role as an NBA reserve took an adjustment; in fact, the adaption isn’t yet complete.
“I’m streaky,” Delaney, who shot 37.6 percent from the field and 80.4 percent from the free throw line, said. “My biggest quality is to score. I went away from my natural ability to do certain things.”
The two-part transition from scorer to facilitator and starter to reserve took some getting used to.
“Throughout the season, it kind of dropped my confidence offensively because I had never played like that,” Delaney said. “I’m going to take the time this summer just to get back to doing my thing.”
Delaney’s summer will be different too. The European schedules had few games but lots more practices, and as a result, he used to go into the offseason looking primarily for rest and recovery.
“When I played in Europe, I never trained in the summer. I came home and took two months off. I probably didn’t touch a basketball for a month and a half because the season was so long and we had two-a-days the whole season. I just didn’t want to be around basketball. But now, I’ve got a good (training) staff and a good coaching staff that will be here to work with me, and I’m excited about it. It’s actually fun working with these guys because you can see the development when you work with them, so I’m just looking forward to it.”
Delaney said that he plans to spend a lot of his summer in Atlanta.
“I work out with (assistant coach) Charles Lee a lot,” Delaney said. “Me and him have a good plan. They develop players well here, and hopefully I’ll be one of the next ones.”