Injuries suck. You never want anyone to get hurt, but it seems like every time an NBA player gets injured it’s someone who’s awesome and genuinely fun to watch. Guys like Ricky Rubio, Kobe Bryant, and of course, Derrick Rose, have sustained serious injuries the past couple of years, but one of the most guys I missed watching while he sat on the sidelines was the Italian Stallion Danilo Gallinari.
In April of 2013, Gallinari tore his ACL and missed the 2013 playoffs. After suffering complications from the “healing response” performed on his knee, Gallinari had reconstructive surgery in January of 2014 and missed the entire 2013-2014 season.
Still only 26, it was difficult to be anything but pessimistic about Gallinari’s future before this season. The best word to describe the start to Gallinari’s 2014-2015 season is, well, atrocious. Gallinari averaged 8.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game shooting almost impossibly bad from the field (34.4%) and for three (29.6%). Of course, Gallo still wasn’t safe from injury. Gallinari tore his right meniscus in December, but he fortunately only missed 15 games.
After years of injuries, botched treatments, recoveries and injuries yet again, I can finally declare a statement I’ve been waiting for years to say. Danilo Gallinari is back. And dare I say, better than ever.
Since the All-Star break, Gallinari is averaging 18.9 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game while shooting 43.7% from the field and 40.1% from downtown, making an incredible three per game. Gallinari has already made 65 three’s in 22 games post All-Star break after making just 40 in 35 games before the break.
Gallinari is enjoying his best stretch of games right now, scoring at least 20 points in three straight games, including a ridiculous 47 point outburst against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday. Per Basketball-Reference, Gallo is only the eighth player since 1986 to score 47 points shooting at least 65 percent with seven three-pointers. When you add his nine rebounds, the only other player to match that line is Kobe Bryant. We’re starting to see that toughness, cockiness, and most of all, swag, that we once saw from the Rooster.
It’s clear that Gallinari is playing at a high level right now, but the obvious question is how long will it last?
I’m not a doctor by any means so I can’t speak to the extent of his injury history and the probability of it reoccurring, but you’d have assume it’s safer to take a jump shot than vault yourself at players towards the rim. Gallinari has drawn 4.1 free throws per game since All-Star break–right about at his career average of 4.3 attempts per game–but he uses his savvy ballhandling and face-up game to draw fouls rather than taking dangerous lunges toward the rim.
According to NBA.com, Gallinari averages .97 points per possession in isolation, which can be attributed to his ability to elevate over smaller defenders when he’s playing small forward and his ability to drive past big men when he’s at power forward. That’s when Gallo’s real potential comes into play.
According to 82games.com (updated through February 18th) Gallinari had played 17 percent of the Denver Nuggets’ minutes at small forward and 7 percent at power forward. Surprisingly, Gallo has a 15.5 PER at power forward and only a 9.8 PER at small forward. Looking back at Gallinari’s last full season in 2012-2013, there was a similar trend. He had a 20.7 PER at power forward and a 14.1 PER at small forward despite having more playing time at the three. He’ll certainly give up size, defense, and rebounding playing the four, but he’d give the Nugs versatility and spacing that they desperately need.
If you take a look at his shot chart below, Gallinari takes 53.2% of his shots from behind the arc and only 24.2% of his shots come at the rim.
If Danilo Gallinari can keep his three-point percentage above 40%, limit his takes at the rim, and continue to excel in isolation plays, there’s a good chance he’ll stay healthy and be pretty darn good as well.