Life on the fringes of the NBA is pretty difficult. There's constant shuffling between clubs and leagues, uncertainty regarding your next contract, and the playing conditions aren't always the best. You keep plowing through waiting for an NBA team to take notice, to offer a training camp invite or a summer league roster spot that leads to something more. And when it finally works out and you break through, it's always a joy to see.
This summer, Malcolm Delaney is likely to be the guy who gets that chance. Formerly of Virginia Tech, the 6'3" guard has spent the last five seasons attempting to break through the NBA wall. In that time he's worn many jerseys in many places: Chalon in France, BC Budivelnik in Ukraine, the Detroit Pistons Summer League Team, Bayern Munich in Germany, and most recently, Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar in Russia. He's played all over the map, and more importantly, he's won all over the map, picking up regular season titles in his lone seasons in France, Ukraine, and Germany, and earning All-Euroleague 1st Team honors in leading Lokomotiv to a surprise Final Four entrance this past year. That pedigree has led to him finally getting a chance at his NBA break. Rumors have it that the Brooklyn Nets and Houston Rockets are courting him, and he appears set on trying to score an NBA deal, to the point that he rejected a 2-year, $5 million deal with Euroleague heavyweight Barcelona.
Delaney was lightning in the backcourt for Lokomotiv Kuban last season, helping them become the only non-permanent Euroleague member to make the Final Four of the competition, and leading them to a 22-8 record in the VTB league. playing alongside former College of Charleston point guard Dontaye Draper and Russian slasher Evgeny Voronov, Delaney was the primary three-point shooter for Lokomotiv Kuban, hitting 70 triples in Euroleague action and another 40 in the VTB. He hit many of these off the dribble in the pick-and-roll or isolation, where he has become almost Damian Lillard-esque in his ability to stop and pop from the arc:
Delaney also works well as a spot-up shooter, although on the ball is where he's more comfortable. He and Draper split duties at the point for much of the year, with Delaney handling more of the pick-and-roll action and Draper up top for more motion-based offense. It seems that this will be Delaney's role delineation in the NBA as well, as he's better set up to be a ball-dominant guard rather than a spot-up shooter who occasionally gets pick-and-roll looks. He scored 18.9 points per 40 minutes last season, on a 23 percent usage rate, and I could see him potentially posting similar scoring rates in the NBA.
Delaney's also a decent finisher at the rim, although this would be a space for him to improve in. Delaney relies a lot on his pull-up jumper, and developing better touch at the rim would help him become a more well-rounded threat on the ball, particularly because he won't have as easy of a time getting those shots off against the length of NBA defenders. That he averaged 6.4 free throw attempts per 40 minutes is a good sign, and he's a lights-out free throw shooter, hitting between 86-88 percent in each of the last three seasons. If he can draw contact at a similar rate in the NBA, that will help, and that free throw shooting makes him a nice end-of-game candidate to protect a lead.
Delaney's decision-making with passing isn't the best, as he can be a bit turnover prone, especially when pressured out of the pick-and-roll. But he can drive and kick pretty well, and his transition passing game is excellent.
Delaney's assist numbers have improved each year he's been in Europe, and he posted a 29.0 assist rate this year. If he can cut down on turnovers in the halfcourt, that skill should translate well.
Getting Delaney in your rotation is primarily an offensive move, as he doesn't quite have the length or quickness to be really effective NBA defender. He isn't the best off-ball defender, but part of that is due to the European game, where rotations and recovery aren't as big of a deal as they are in the NBA. He does pretty well on the ball, however, fighting through screens and steering opponents away from the rim:
He also has roughly a 1.8 percent steal rate for his career, which is a pretty solid mark. There's evidence that while Delaney may never be anything special defensively, he at least should be playable on that end.
Whether it's Brooklyn, Houston, or another NBA team, Delaney has proven he can score and run an offense at an NBA level. He seems to be a good fit as a bench point guard, a guy who can come in and lead a 2nd unit as a scorer, and also operate as a shooting guard in starter-heavy units. He has some questions to answer, particularly in terms of decision-making and off-ball defense, but as a role player, he appears to be a nice fit. We will see where he ends up, but for one of the European game's most well-traveled and hardest working players, this summer is a long-time coming.