Tracking the whereabouts of former Virginia Tech guard Malcolm Delaney has been a chore in recent weeks, as he’s traveled around the country for pre-draft workouts with nine NBA teams — including the Washington Wizards.
His journey came to an end Tuesday, when the Memphis Grizzlies welcomed the Baltimore native for a private evaluation. Yet there are no assurances the two-time all-ACC first-team selection will hear his name called during Thursday’s NBA draft.
Many draft experts are predicting he’ll go undrafted, a significant distinction with the potential of a prolonged NBA lockout looming.
So last week, Delaney took an unusual step towards eliminating some of that anxiety. He signed a conditional one-year contract with Elan Chalon, a team in France’s top professional league, Ligue Nationale de Basketball, based about 200 miles southeast of Paris.
Chalon General Manager Remy Delpon wrote in an e-mail that the agreement is worth $130,000 after taxes and stipulates Delaney will report to the team’s training camp in early August if he’s not on an NBA roster by July 20.
“It’s a back-up plan, and with people saying the lockout is going to be bad, I didn’t want to sit around and not make money,” Delaney said. “This is a big week, but I’m not as stressed as I would have been because I know I have something to fall back on either way.”
Though Delaney had explored playing overseas ever since declaring for the NBA draft without an agent last year, the tipping point for Delaney’s conditional contract came in April when the NBA decided to cancel its annual summer league in Las Vegas. It’s traditionally a proving ground for fringe prospects, but also serves as a key recruiting period for European teams looking for talent.
Now, July will likely be a dead period for undrafted free agents — and even those that are drafted — because once the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement expires on June 30, no teams will know for sure what the salary cap or rookie wage scale will look like for next season.
“It’s a fairly common maneuver by agents, and you’re gonna start to hear about a lot of [conditional contracts] once the lockout starts to take hold,” said Delaney’s agent, Andrew Vye of ASM Sports. “We just moved a little faster than most, and that was a calculated decision on our part to beat people to the punch. We were lucky enough to get a really good team to cooperate with us a little earlier than they normally do.”
Delaney interviewed with a team in the Australian professional basketball league as well, but decided to sign with Chalon because it’s part of the Euroleague, the most prestigious club basketball competition in Europe. Derrick Hamilton, Delaney’s Atlanta-based trainer, also played under current Chalon coach Gregor Beugnot during a 14-year career overseas.
Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem and Oklahoma City forward Thabo Sepholosha are Chalon alums; the team finished in third place during the LNB’s regular season last year. Delpon wrote that Delaney was Beugnot’s “first choice” as a combo guard replacement for Boston College graduate Marquez Haynes, who decided not to return to the club for next season.
That, though, doesn’t mean Delaney has given up hope that he’ll get drafted Thursday night, and perhaps make his preemptive deal in France a moot point. ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said Monday he wouldn’t be shocked if a team used a second-round pick on Delaney, but “I don’t know of anybody whose got him ranked among the top 60” prospects.
One thing is for sure — Delaney has no plans on learning French. His contract with Chalon would end next June, and regardless of what happens this week, his goal is to make it in the NBA.
“I never paid attention to foreign language in school,” Delaney said with a laugh. “Everybody thinks they’re gonna be in the [NBA] right away but it’s not gonna happen like that.”