NBA

CelticsBlog Cinema Hall: Danilo Gallinari

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After going through one of the best six-month stretches in recent NBA history, the Boston Celtics are certain to have a championship core. Still, there is still work to be done to turn the corner and win the Larry O’Brien Trophy again. Most of this work is done in two areas: internally through the development and improvement of their best players, and small tweaks around the core that add different weapons into the mix.

Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens has been working to resolve the latter with some moves around the sidelines that give the Celtics added depth and new pieces to play with. One of the more consequential additions is veteran forward Danilo Gallinari, a soft-shooting Italian with a track record of NBA success and winning impact now as an aging bench player.

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Last season, Gallinari shot 47.1% from 3-point corners, an incredibly high number. Yes, the primary value in bringing a veteran like him on board is his 3-point shooting consistency, a prized trait around Boston’s many star wings. CelticsBlog’s Adam Taylor previously wrote a major review of his value as a spot-up threat.

But what makes Gallinari underrated — both in terms of his fit for this team and his overall league-wide reputation — is his role as an attacking creator, even at his age. According to playtype data from Synergy Sports, 17% of Gallinari’s offense last season came from post-ups. Adding another scoring capable wing here is important, and Gallinari is certainly capable of draining jumpers in the middle zone.

Standing 6’10”, he likes to use his height advantage on switches against smaller wings or guards. Gallo knows how to play and is shrewd as a veteran, sliding screens with ball handlers to force switches; he was masterful at drawing leaders on him when he dispatched Trae Young.Watch how he screens and positions himself to force a change.

Gallo would then take the little one into the post and thrive on that Dirk Nowitzki-style one-legged fade that is literally unstoppable. In his introductory press conference, he mentioned liking Larry Bird growing up. You can see why.

The underrated part of Gallo’s game is and always has been his demise. Against a changing defense or a smaller player, Gallinari can be an offensive hub down below. He created 1.2 points per possession (PPP) for his teammates when posting. If he makes enough jumpers or exploits mismatches to his advantage, he can make the right read to implicate another Celtics teammate so an open shooter or cutter gets a lick.

How Gallinari can be more of a creative center on Boston’s second unit is understated in many ways. He found value in Atlanta when he was around shooters and playing with a smaller guard. The Celtics have very few smaller players on their roster, although Gallo’s ability to force changes and then do position readings could pair well with Payton Pritchard on the bench. It also gives the Celtics another option to create an oversized lineup when playing with the main group and prevents opponents from hiding their smaller guy on the so-called shooting threat.

In the minutes when Gallinari plays with guys like Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown, his pick-and-pop prowess can come in handy. Last season, Gallinari was an outstanding 11-24 (45.8%) on non-dribble jumpers off the pick-and-pop. His reputation as a deadeye shooter doesn’t just come from standing around the 3-point line and waiting for send-offs…he’s really functional in a way that opens the playbook.

The middle pick-and-pop is an NBA staple against slump bigs, and Gallinari had success here when he was playing 5. Because the Celtics have other bigs like Al Horford (37.8% on 3-point corners) and Grant Williams (46.8%) who can space the floor in places other than the top of the key, head coach Ime Udoka can cobble together where his guys play on the floor without change alignments too much.

Those lineup options are clear for Udoka with a four-man frontline rotation of Grant, Al, Gallo and Robert Williams. Put Gallo in with Timelord and it will provide defensive rim protection while he is slower at 4 and more spacing around Williams rolling towards the rim. Gallo and Al can be interchangeable offensive pieces, a good deal of creative between them and both shoot well. Grant and Gallo are interchangeable, allowing Gallo to play the 5 where his pick-and-pop becomes even deadlier.

As players age, they tend to start keeping alignment, relying on their strength as quickness becomes fleeting. We have seen such a change in Gallinari. According to Basketball Reference, he played 29% of his minutes in Atlanta at 5, which he had never done more than 2% of the time in a single season before joining the Hawks.

The forward metrics of Gallinari’s time in Atlanta were pretty positive despite the change and porous defense he brought to 5. What Boston brings to the table to help him out are two veteran defenders with different but positive impacts to Horford and Robert Williams. We would expect to see Gallinari play with one of these two more often than not.

Adding a veteran shooter was paramount for the Celtics, and Gallinari remains one of the most underrated players in the league despite his age and declining athleticism. Shooting around the stars is always valued, and Gallinari knows how to provide that in any type of role possible. But he’s more than just a shooter, and we’re really excited to see how he’ll impact Boston’s second unit offensively in those areas.

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