Improved shooting pivotal for Hawks’ Malcolm Delaney

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 9: Malcolm Delaney
ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 9: Malcolm Delaney /

One area many thought would translate for Malcolm Delaney as he came over from Europe was his shooting. That turned out not to be the case in his first season with the Atlanta Hawks. As he enters year two (final) of his contract, the Hawks need that shooting to return to help solidify their bench unit.

His story has been well documented to this point. Malcolm Delaney signed with the Atlanta Hawks in 2016 on a 2 year, $5 million contract. This after playing five seasons overseas following a collegiate career at Virginia Tech.

His final season in Euroleague saw him average over 16 pts/game while shooting over 40% beyond the arc. He was a career 40% three-point shooter overseas while averaging five 3PA per game. His shots beyond the arc accounted for 52% of his total shots during his 2015-2016 season in Europe (all numbers via Basketball Reference).

These numbers are impractical, because not one of them translated to his first season with the Atlanta Hawks. Last season, granted in far fewer minutes per game, he averaged 5.4 pts/game while shooting just 23% from beyond the arc.  He only attempted 1.5 three pointers per game which accounted for only 28% of his total shots. So he took far fewer three pointers with the Hawks and shot a much lower percentage.

Those numbers appear different from his time in Europe. But were they really?

In Europe, he was the primary ball-handler and scorer. He was a solid pick-and-roll player and good shooter off those screens. The difference was that a lot of his jump shots off the pick-and-roll and in pull-up situations in Europe were beyond the arc whereas in the NBA, they ended up being long twos. The three-point line is obviously shorter in FIBA (22 ft. 2 in. vs. 23 ft. 9 in. in the NBA).

As you see from that short video, aside from getting all the way to the rim, most of his jump shots were long twos. The stats back that up as well.  Delaney shot 47% on shots between 16 feet and the three-point line. That same distance also accounted for 46% of his total shots. Many of those coming off the pick-and-roll and in pull-up/late clock situations.

Those shots are likely three pointers in Europe. That helps partially explain the drop in percentage of three-point shots attempted. He was taking, and making, the same type of shots as he did overseas. The difference being he just never extended his range to outside the NBA three-point line.

So, with that in mind, what does Malcolm Delaney need to do entering year two with the Hawks?

It’s simple. The Hawks need Delaney to at least become a threat from beyond the arc. I don’t expect him to suddenly become even a 35% three-point shooter this year but he needs to extend his range. That’s not just for this upcoming season but for his long-term future in the NBA. He’ll need to increase those percentages in order to stick in the league.

One thing that will help is consistent playing time. Coach Bud is known for adjusting his rotations throughout the year and as a result, Malcolm Delaney’s playing time fluctuated last season. Coach Bud moved him in and out of the rotation throughout the year. By end of the season, he wasn’t playing much at all.

He only played in one game against the Washington Wizards in the playoffs as Jose Calderon received most of the backup minutes. He’ll need consistency on the court to help get in a rhythm. With the team rebuilding this year, he needs to receive the bulk of the minutes at backup PG.

One last point I’ll mention. The Hawks as a team need to put up more threes this year. The Hawks were 15th in the NBA in percentage of total shots being three pointers last season (31%) and 23rd in 3PFG% (34.1%). The Hawks have some capable shooters on the roster and I would expect at least the attempts to increase.

Next: Hawks should consider signing Trey Burke

The lack of an inside presence offensively on this roster should help as well. For the Hawks to compete at all, they’re going to need to start taking, and making, more threes this year. That means guys like Malcolm Delaney, and others, need to show significant improvement.