Mike Check

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Hawks player preview: Malcolm Delaney


Malcolm Delaney

Position: PG

Height/Weight: 6-3, 190

Age: 28 (3/11/89)

2017-18 salary: $2.5 million

CARMELO projected value: minus $4.4 million

How acquired: 2016 free agent (Europe)

OFFENSE

Delaney was a good, volume 3-point shooter during his senior year at Virginia Tech (40.8 percent, while launching 3s on nearly half of his field-goal attempts) and drew a lot of fouls (48 percent free-throw attempt rate). He was a good, volume shooter during professional competition in Europe  (40.1 percent on 3s while launching them at a similar rate) and drew a lot of fouls (53.7 percent free-throw attempt rate).

But Delaney’s shooting and offensive aggressiveness didn’t translate to the NBA. As a rookie he made just 26 of 110 3-point attempts (23.6 percent) and 119 of 278 2-pointers (42.8 percent). Delaney also had a low free-throw rate (.240) while attempting just 73 of his 388 field-goal attempts within 10 feet of the basket.

It all adds up to a miserable offensive season for Delaney. Among the 158 players who played at least 1,000 minutes 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).

Delaney did show good passing ability but, same as at Virginia Tech and in Europe, it came along with a high turnover rate. Another positive for Delaney was his 81 percent free-throw shooting but he didn’t get to the line often enough for that to boost his efficiency.

DEFENSE

Delaney didn’t have much of a positive box-score impact defensively (-1.3 Defensive Box/Plus Minus, according to Basketball Reference). Delaney had 1.1 steals per 36 minutes with a 1.5 steals percentage and 3.3 defensive rebounds per 36 minutes with a 9.8 defensive rebound percentage.

Delaney rated slightly below average in FiveThirtyEight.com’s defensive metric, which is a combination of box plus/minus and Real Plus-Minus.

OUTLOOK

Delaney was a rotation player under Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer for much of last season before falling out of favor late in the year. Delaney said he “got too comfortable” during the second half of his rookie season and that the decrease in playing time “kind of killed my confidence.”

But not many NBA teams will have a major role for a high-usage, reserve point guard who shoots poorly, doesn’t get to the free-throw line and turns the ball over often. FiveThirtyEight.com’s CARMELO projection foresees a slight bounce-back season for Delaney but still predicts he will offer sub-replacement level production.

That projection is based on Delaney’s one year in the NBA. If Delaney can regain his shooting form and be more aggressive offensively, he likely will get the bulk of the minutes behind Dennis Schroder. In July, Delaney told the AJC’s Chris Vivlamore that he’s been working on his three-point shooting and scoring around the rim.

Note: Delaney experienced a personal, family tragedy in the summer before his first NBA season. I’ve never met Delaney so I have no insight into how much of a factor that played in his poor season. However, Delaney tweeted last month that the tragedy was “what I had to deal with besides (basketball)."

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About the Author

Michael Cunningham has covered the Hawks and other beats for the AJC since 2010. He is the author of the AJC’s Mike Check blog.