The Denver Nuggets are off to a 6-5 start. While that isn’t dominance, it could be said they’re overachieving. A large portion of the credit seems to be going in a million different directions, rightfully so I might add, but it’s probably time to start acknowledging how splendid the play of Danilo Gallinari has been.
Thing is, a lot of what Gallinari has been doing are things we’ve expected from him over the years. It’s not that he’s a surprise or people think he’s an abomination of a player. The problem has mostly been that he’s been a tad bit injury-prone — which hasn’t only hampered his development, but the perception of him as a really good forward.
Fans and media are fickle like that. We project guys to do certain things, and even when they live up to them (at least statistically) the player can fall out of grace for reasons not only due to the play on the court. Regardless, Gallinari always seems to bubble up, then get injured at the worst of times, which is likely why he’s no longer mentioned as much as he probably should.
Although, that would result in getting in a trickier debate. I mean, how much is the “right” amount of times to bring up a guy? Admittedly, this could be my East Coast bias — ahem, inability to stay awake late (thank you, archived games on League Pass) — which has provided me with the idea that folks aren’t giving him enough credit. I could very well be wrong. I usually am.
So far this season, the 6’10” Italian is averaging a career best 19.1 points on 43 percent shooting from the floor and 41 percent from distance. Both of those would be career highs as well, but the 28 games he participated in during his rookie season doesn’t allow to boast in such a way. It’s worth noting that he’s pulling in five rebounds per game as well.
Gallinari is also strutting around with a PER of 20.70, an effective field goal percentage over 50 and a true shooting percentage right under 60. All of which is to say he’s been excellent on the offensive end of the floor.
Now we’ve reached a weird time in the season while trying to discuss his play. Are we waiting for him to get injured, are we not giving him credit because he’s lackluster defensively, or do the Nuggets need to win a slew of games directly by way of Gallinari’s efforts before we acknowledge he’s playing at an All-Star level?
It’s tricky. There’s some nuance needed. And it isn’t like he’s come out of nowhere. Really, he’s been productive offensively throughout his entire career. Maybe not so efficient as he’s been this year or as much in terms of mass, but there’s this slight lift of production which should put him on more radars…except it hasn’t outside of Denver fans.
Truth be told, Gallinari isn’t the most entertaining player to watch in the world. He’s not as athletic as he was earlier in his career. Not that he was an athletic marvel to being with. There’s the way in which he goes about getting buckets, which is similar to the “old guy at the Y” who keeps showing up to play pickup games despite your asking he leaves you and your friends alone. And he can be inconsistent, as guys who usually put up nearly 20 a game don’t vanish randomly throughout a season.
Early in his career, oddly enough, when the Knicks took him in the draft, he showed flashes of tremendous offensive talents. Hell, even their fan base wanted to embrace him. Maybe not fully, and certainly not to the degree they have been with Kristaps Porzingis, but there was a hope that he’d end up being a major player. Then, again, injuries and bad seasons from a team’s perspective happened. Culminating with Gallinari being traded halfway through his third season in the NBA.
It wasn’t like it was an out of sight, out of mind type deal, either. The Nuggets were good when he first got to the team. Then he got hurt in the 2011-12 season and it seems like we collectively decided to no longer act as if he’s a player of consequence in the NBA.
There’s more to this, though. More to his game than simply being an offensive player or a somewhat oft-injured guy.
Gallinari’s story shouldn’t be solely told through his injuries, or even his offensive production, but his perseverance. Players more gifted than him have faded into the sunset dealing with similar injuries. He’s continued to strut up and down the hardwood — possibly even getting better as he goes.
His play this season isn’t something I want to overstate. He’s still limited in many areas, and fans sure as heck would prefer their 6’10” forward to rebound at a better clip and defend better, but we’ve celebrated players far worse than Gallinari, as well as guys who haven’t been as consistently productive. Like it or not (who wouldn’t like it?), Gallinari is good at basketball.
We need to start talking about it. Acknowledging it. Praising it. Discussing him as a potential All-Star. All of those things. Otherwise he’s merely some guy putting up great numbers in Denver and that — alone, in a vacuum — is doing his play a disservice.