Atlanta Hawks guard Malcolm Delaney (5) drives against Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) in the first half Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018, in Atlanta. John Bazemore/AP
Photo: John Bazemore/AP
Photo: John Bazemore/AP

Hawks player season review: Malcolm Delaney

As a collegiate senior and professional in Europe, Malcolm Delaney was an efficient, high-volume 3-point shooter and drew a lot of fouls. He couldn’t duplicate that scoring as an NBA rookie in 2016-17, and was only marginally better in 1,014 minutes played this season, but Delaney still provided value in 2017-18 with his play-making and defense. 

Delaney shot the ball miserably as a rookie. Among the 158 players who played at least 1,000 minutes last season and had a usage rate equal to or higher than Delaney’s 18.3, he ranked last in true shooting percentage (45.6) and effective field-goal percentage (40.7). 

This season Delaney had a 16.9 usage rate and posted a 51.9 TS% and 46.3 eFG%. He also increased his free-throw attempt rate by more than a third to rank in the 78th percentile among combo guards, according to Cleaning the Glass

Still, Delaney’s points per shot in 2017-18 ranked in just the 34th percentile because his solid 3-point shooting (37.1 percent) on good volume was offset by poor accuracy in every other zone of the floor. The big plus for Delaney offensively was a assist to usage ratio that ranked in the 85th percentile among combo guards per CTG. The minus: though he cut his overall turnover rate from 16.2 in 2016-17 to 14.0 (non-garbage time) he turned the ball over on 23 percent of his 147 possessions used as the pick-and-roll ball-handler, according to Synergy Sports. 

My subjective view is that Delaney was a reason why the Hawks’ bench was an effective defensive unit, but his numbers are mixed overall at that end. 

Delaney had pretty good production in steals and defensive rebounds. But per CTG the Hawks allowed about the same offensive efficiency with Delaney on or off the court in non-garbage time. (However, they allowed far less transition chances with Delaney on the court.) 

However, there is evidence that Delaney had a greater defensive impact once Mike Budenholzer started using him alongside point guard Isaiah Taylor. Lineups including that duo outscored opponents by 2.9 points per 100 possessions and were among the most effective defensive alignments for the Hawks, according to CTG data. 

 Coming into the season, Delaney projected to be the primary ball-handler off the bench. That changed when the Hawks signed Taylor. Delaney dropped out of the rotation until Budenholzer started playing him at shooting guard. 

 “For me, I had to take on more of a leadership role,” Delaney said. “I didn’t really have a role on the team coming into the season. I thought after last season I would have a bigger role. I didn’t really have a role, so I tried to be the best teammate possible even when I wasn’t playing and I think that’s what really got Bud’s attention. He could trust me more.” 

Delaney is eligible to become a free agent this summer after making a total of $5 million over the past two seasons. How teams assess his value could depend on their view of how much an ankle injury has affected his play. Delaney finished the season on the injured list after surgery for an ankle injury that kept him out for the final month, and he said he’s had problems with the injury since his time at Virginia Tech. 

“I can play in this league,” Delaney said. “I know I can be a lot better than what people have seen. People have seen flashes of what I can do. But I can be a legit player on a good team and I can be a leader on a team.”

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About the Author

Michael Cunningham
Michael Cunningham
Michael Cunningham has covered the Hawks and other beats for the AJC since 2010. 

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