Malcolm Delaney’s NBA Debut Was A Long Time Coming

May 22, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; General view of t-shirts on the seats prior to game two of the Eastern Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs between the Atlanta Hawks and the Cleveland Cavaliers at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
May 22, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; General view of t-shirts on the seats prior to game two of the Eastern Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs between the Atlanta Hawks and the Cleveland Cavaliers at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

Malcolm Delaney went overseas and established himself as a dynamic point guard and a winner. With the Atlanta Hawks’ season kicking off on Thursday, here is a look at their new backup point guard.

Before this preseason, Malcolm Delaney hadn’t played high-profile basketball stateside since he was Virginia Tech’s floor general.

In 2010-11, his senior year, Delaney led the Hokies in scoring and assists and earned All-ACC First Team honors for the second straight season. The Hokies made their fourth consecutive NIT and gained home-court advantage of their eight-team portion of the bracket.

Virginia Tech would fall in the second round to eventual champion Wichita State.

With his college career over, he looked towards his professional future. Unfortunately, NBA teams did not select Delaney in the 2011 NBA Draft despite him averaging 18.7 points, 4.0 assists and 1.6 steals in his final season.

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Unlike the 60 rookies picked instead of him, Malcolm would have to work from the outside to break into the Association.

Delaney started his professional career by spending a season each in France, Ukraine, and Germany. He didn’t only play well, he helped teams win their domestic championships every year.

In 2011-12, he and former Loyola Rambler Blake Schilb helped Chalon-sur-Saône win their only French League title to date. 2012-13 saw Malcolm win Ukranian SuperLeague MVP and lead BC Budivelnyk to their fourth title.

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He also picked up All-First Team honors in the second-tier EuroCup tournament. For 2013-14, Delaney went to Germany and helped Bayern Munich to their first Bundesliga championship in 59 years. He also took home the League and Finals MVP trophies.

Malcolm averaged 13.8 points, 3.9 assists, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.1 steals over those three overseas campaigns. He then embarked on his next challenge when he signed with Russian side PBC Lokomotiv Kuban in July 2014.

Former NBAers Anthony Randolph and Derrick Brown joined Delaney in Krasnodar. They helped the team to a semifinal finish in the VTB United League postseason and a quarterfinal finish in the EuroCup. Malcolm averaged 13.6 points, 4.5 assists, and 3.4 rebounds that season.

The 2015-16 version of Lokomotiv Kuban was deeper with talent.

This team featured Delaney and Randolph returning, former NBAers Chris Singleton and Victor Claver, American Eurostars Dontaye Draper and Matt Janning, and 2016 Australian Olympic team member Ryan Broekhoff.

Malcolm averaged 14.6 points and 4.9 assists on the year. He also helped the team finish third in the top-tier Euroleague tournament and made All-Euroleague First Team for his efforts.

Having accomplished so much in Europe, it was time for the ultimate next step. On July 15, Malcolm Delaney signed a guaranteed two-year contract with the Atlanta Hawks.

Atlanta did not blindly sign Malcolm Delaney. They had been keeping tabs on his European performance for multiple years.

"“Malcolm is a player we’ve watched closely and built a relationship with over the last few years,” Hawks GM Wes Wilcox said in the press release announcing Delaney’s signing,  “He’s played at the highest level internationally and won with every team he’s played for. We are excited to welcome Malcolm to the Hawks family.”"

Malcolm didn’t come to the NBA on a whim, either. He had several workouts with NBA teams in the past — including the Hawks the previous summer — and played for the Pistons in the 2013 Orlando Summer League.

He set out to dominate in Europe in order to gain the eyes of the franchises that overlooked him in 2011. This signing was a matter of hard work paying off.

"“After my senior year in college, I thought I deserved to be drafted but I wasn’t,” He said in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Chris Vivlamore at this year’s Vegas Summer League.“I had a good agent. We came up with a plan for 3-4 years. He said we want teams to come after us. We don’t want to chase the NBA. After my third year overseas, I started seeing it. I had an opportunity from Houston but my team didn’t let me out [of contract]. The plan started working. I got more comfortable with it and started following the plan”."

Delaney comes to the NBA as a potent scorer and versatile playmaker. He is capable of scoring anywhere on the floor in any number of fashions. His most dangerous weapon is his pull-up jumper.

Any time he feels he has space — in transition, off a screen, in isolation — he is liable to gather, jump, release, and knock one down.

Some other aspects of his game may require an adjustment period to transition between Europe and the NBA. For instance, Malcolm is great in catch-and-shoot situations and getting to the rim.

These facets of his game could be slightly harder to pull off as he deals with the increase in speed of the average defender he faces. In catch-and-shoot situations, he could have issues losing defenders off the ball when attempting to create space for open chances.

That speed may also keep him from getting the first step on opponents when he wants to attack the basket.

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Malcolm is adept at setting up teammates for great shots. His ballhandling is improving over time, with his assist and turnover averages drifting apart each season. He is even prone to throw a fancy pass if he’s confident in the connection.

That flashiness will be more than welcomed inside of “The Highlight Factory.”

With the Hawks shipping Jeff Teague off to Indiana, it looked as if the Hawks were going to rebuild their point guard rotation with Dennis Schroder starting and two backups. Delaney joined the Hawks on the same day as Jarrett Jack.

The team added Will Bynum in September and career D-Leaguer Josh Magette in mid-October during training camp. Then last week happened.

The Hawks waived Jack on Oct. 21 due to the slow recovery of an ACL injury he sustained last season. The team then cut Bynum and Magette on Saturday. That leaves Malcolm Delaney as the lone backup to Schroder.

"“Certainly not how we intended this to play out,” GM Wilcox said to the Journal-Constitution about the situation. “One, we’ve been very pleased with the play of Malcolm Delaney. In addition to that, we’ve just had an unusual front line preseason with some of our guys missing some games and Tiago [Splitter] not quite being ready. We had to make the very difficult decision to keep more front line help versus the point guard depth. Certainly, it’s a tough decision but one we felt we had to make.”"

This happenstance gives Delaney more minutes on the floor to show the US the type of basketball they had been missing.

Malcolm Delaney has shown himself to be a hard-working player with an indefatigable spirit. When the NBA didn’t look his way out of school, he put in work in some of Europe’s best leagues until teams couldn’t help but pay attention.

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On Thursday, he will be able to do something he probably felt he should have been able to do five years ago: play basketball on the NBA stage.