Malcolm Delaney’s journey to the NBA. four years overseas and hearing from a number of teams, he knew Atlanta was the right place for him.
Patience is a virtue that all humans possess. The levels can vary depending upon the individual, but it is certainly a characteristic that can be developed over time. For the majority, it usually comes out once we reach adulthood and more specifically when we have children. It’s rare that people develop a mature level of patience going through their high school and college years, but Atlanta Hawks point guard Malcolm Delaney was one of the few.
Delaney was an elite high school player coming out of Towson Catholic in Baltimore, Maryland. In 2006 he earned Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Maryland amongst many other postseason honors and eventually committed to play his collegiate career at Virginia Tech.
During his four years at Virginia Tech, Delaney averaged 16.6 points, four assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game. Delaney’s best season came during his junior campaign when he averaged 20.2 points, 4.5 assists, and 3.7 rebounds, which caused him to declare for the 2010 NBA Draft. One day before the deadline to keep his name in the draft, Delaney decided to return to the Hokies for one more season.
At 20 years old, Delaney displayed his patience by realizing he could return to school and if he could repeat his production from the previous year, his draft stock would likely improve. Although he didn’t match his junior season numbers exactly, he did average 18.7 points, four assists, and 3.5 rebounds. In a fairly deep 2011 NBA Draft, Delaney went undrafted and with the likeliness that a lockout would occur (which ended up happening), he ended up signing his first professional contract with Elan Chalon of France.
I spoke with Delaney on his mindset after not being selected:
“I could’ve played in the NBA after my senior year I think if I wanted to stick around and wait the lockout out, I would’ve been on a roster,” Delaney said. “I didn’t want to be the 15th guy on the bench making minimum money when I could go overseas and work my way up and my goal was to try and be a millionaire by the age of 25. I knew it was definitely possible overseas if I played well. But that was just a goal that I set for myself and it was more so to make sure my family was good, to improve my lifestyle, and comfort of my living. I set goals for myself and I don’t look back or look at any other way until I achieve that goal.”
When there’s a chance for someone to achieve their ultimate goal, they usually take it no matter the circumstances, but Delaney’s maturity allowed him to see the bigger picture and the path that would eventually lead him back to his dream. By year four of his overseas professional career, Delaney had established himself as one of the top players in Europe. His name was mentioned with a number of teams throughout his second and third season, but there was one particular GM who had his eye on Delaney the entire time: Wes Wilcox.
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“The Hawks have been one of the teams that have followed me closely for a few years. I’ve known Wes Wilcox since he was in Cleveland,” Delaney said. “He was one of the guys who thought that me playing overseas would benefit me. He told me when I met with him when he was in Cleveland that he thought in one or two more years overseas that I would be a good NBA player.”
Delaney’s name was heavily involved in talks related to the Houston Rockets to help provide depth for the postseason in 2014. Instead, he remained patient with the thought that he wanted to sign a longer deal instead of one that would’ve lasted only a month or so. Did Delaney think about it? Sure, but he also remembered all that Wilcox did to show him how loyal he was to eventually adding him to his new team in Atlanta.
“Wes came to Barcelona when we played there in like November and he told me that anytime they could make something happen with me, they’d do it,” Delaney claimed. “I kind of had that feeling that Atlanta was the team I would be at. There was a few other teams, but Atlanta just always felt like the right place for me.”
Delaney wasn’t the solidified back up coming into the season. In a wild offseason that included losing two cornerstone players in Al Horford and Jeff Teague and essentially replacing them with Delaney and Dwight Howard, there was plenty of questions heading into this season for the Hawks. Not many people had seen Delaney’s abilities and the thought of him playing significant minutes behind Schroder caused uneasiness for fans.
It didn’t take long for Delaney to win over the fanbase. The 6’3″ Baltimore product is averaging 5.6 points, 3.6 assists, and 2.1 rebounds in 16.8 minutes per game this season. His numbers won’t jump off the page when scrolling down the box score, but his impact is undeniable. He gives the Hawks a quality floor general behind Schroder that can do a myriad of things that include making sure the offense is running smoothly, getting players touches where and when they need them, and scoring when the opportunity presents itself.
Delaney was an elite scorer in his time overseas, but he realizes that in his specific role, looking to score every time he touches the ball isn’t the best formula as he gets his NBA career established.
Delaney filled me in on a conversation between him and coach Budenholzer about the expectations:
“We brought you here to do you. We want you to play your game and we want you to be aggressive, but also make the right plays.” Delaney continued, “I haven’t had a big scoring game yet but I think I’ll have a few this year where I’ll need to be aggressive coming off the bench.”
It can be challenging for a player to pull the reigns back from their own game for the betterment of the team, but Delaney isn’t interested in the individual accolades. Team success is what matters most to him but as Delaney said, there will be games where Budenholzer needs him to have more of a scoring mentality and in that case he’ll be ready.
But until then, Delaney will continue to come to work, do his job, and help the continued success of the Atlanta Hawks.