Malcolm Delaney has quelled any concern that he doesn’t belong in the NBA.
The Hawks backup point guard has done so quickly.
Delaney, a well-seasoned rookie after playing overseas for five years, has provided a steady influence for the Hawks when he enters the game. Look no further than his plus-minus statistics. Though he averages just 17.6 minutes per game, Delaney ranks 10th overall in the NBA in the plus-minus category at plus-127. He is 13th with an average of plus-8.5 which translates to plus-17.5 per 36 minutes.
In Wednesday’s 96-85 victory over the Pacers, Delaney finished with 13 points on 3 of 6 field goals, including a key 3-poiner with 37 seconds remaining, and he converted all six of his free throws in 22 minutes. The points and minutes were both season highs as Delaney played most of the fourth quarter over a struggling Dennis Schroder. Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said he decision to ride Delaney was based on going with the hot hand. Delaney helped the Hawks take a 20-point fourth-quarter lead. His 3-pointer in the final minute ended a Pacers’ rally.
“I’m just doing whatever coach asks me to do,” Delaney said after the win. “I’m ready for whatever role I have to play. Like I said early in the season, I can come in and pass every time and I don’t need to score or if I need to hit those shots, I can hit those too. I’m just starting to get more comfortable and confident in everything I can do. I guess coach is starting to get more confident with me too.”
The Hawks continue a five-game road trip against the Jazz on Friday.
With Schroder and Delaney, the Hawks have two point guards that bring different skill sets.
As Paul Millsap explains: “Dennis is more of an attacker. He attacks the basket and gets guys involved. Malcolm does a lot more around the perimeter and the mid-range area. It’s a little different. We run more sets with Malcolm in the game. Dennis is more pick-and-roll and attacking downhill. It’s great. Our team has two different looks, two different point guards, two different things. I think it’s good for us.”
Delaney is averaging 6.4 points, 3.5 assists and 2.1 rebounds in his first 15 NBA games. He has made 21 straight free throws and is 22 of 23 on the season from the line.
There was concern when the Hawks entered the season with just two point guards, including a 27-year-old rookie in Delaney. The gamble has paid off as Delaney has proved a capable backup.
“Malcolm is a really good jump shooter,” Dwight Howard said. “Dennis tries to attack the basket and make plays. I love both of those guys. I think they are doing a tremendous job being that one is a rookie and one is basically a rookie at being a starting point guard.