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LA Clippers 2017-2018 Player Previews: Danilo Gallinari

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The Clippers’ long-awaited small forward has finally arrived, adding a much-needed dimension to one of the league’s premier frontcourts.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers-Media Day Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Height: 6’ 10’’

Weight: 225 lbs.

Age: 29

Position: Small Forward/Power Forward

NBA Experience: 8 seasons

Key Stats: Averaged 18.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists in 33.9 minutes per game (63 games total) for the Denver Nuggets last season. Shot 44.7% from the field, 38.9% from three (5.1 attempts per game), and 90.2% from the free throw line.

Contract Status: 3 years, $63 million - acquired via sign and trade.

Expectations:

The common refrain of Clippers’ offseasons of the past has been their difficulty finding the perfect small forward to complement their Big Three. Though that three was whittled down to two with Chris Paul’s unfortunate departure, the Clippers were able to finally land a talented wing who figures to fit in seamlessly with the starting lineup. Though he’ll spend most of his time at the three, Gallinari’s size will allow him to slide over to the four and hold his own in small ball lineups, particularly alongside accomplished rim-protector DeAndre Jordan. Injuries have kept him from truly asserting himself as a top scoring threat and becoming an all-star, but if he is able to play close to a full season (a gargantuan if, to be fair), he should shine in a new-look Clippers offense.

What Gallinari Offers:

Gallo (Italian for “rooster,” hence the endearing nickname) has proven himself to be an excellent shooter (38.9% 3PT, 40.0% in catch and shoot situations last season) and well rounded scorer, but in addition to his prowess from beyond the three-point arc, he is particularly adept at getting to the charity stripe. As he demonstrated in the Clippers’ first preseason game, despite an inefficient night from the field (3/9, 1/3 from deep), he still had an impressive offensive output, going 10/12 from the free throw line en route to 17 points. Last season he took an average of 6.14 a game, which ranked 18th in the league, just four spots behind Blake Griffin. Add in new sixth man Lou Williams (ranked 20th) and the Clippers should get other teams in foul trouble early and often.

Now that they don’t have the luxury of relying on Paul’s wizardry on a nightly basis, all indications point to the Clippers turning their focus to more fluid, constant ball movement. In Denver, Gallinari took 18.9% of his shots in isolation, a number that should certainly decrease on a team with more proven playmakers. However, it is reassuring that he has shown an aptitude for creating his own shot towards the end of the shot or game clock, a skill that should come in handy with crunch time guards who are less comfortable than CP with the rock in their hands. His style of play isn’t always the most graceful, but he’s an effective scorer from anywhere on the floor, and he has the opportunity to thrive in a dynamic offense as the Clippers’ second option.

They always say that the best ability is availability, and when it comes to Danilo, a truer word has never been spoken. Only once in eight NBA seasons has he played more than 71 games (2009-2010), and his litany of lower body injuries forms a list so long it would even make Blake raise an eyebrow. That said, he’s coming off of the third most healthy season of his career, and he appears to be fully recovered from an offseason thumb injury - the result of an ill-advised punch directed at an opponent in a European friendly (the jokes really write themselves, don’t they?). The Clippers’ training staff have historically had a checkered reputation, but in recent years they have embraced much of the new preventive health technology and will surely take precautionary measures to keep Gallo on the court.

One area where the team will surely look for Gallinari to contribute is on the glass. With a starting lineup that features three players that are at least 6’10’’, the Clippers will hope to ascend out of the bottom third of team rebounding (43.0 per game). Though Gallo has the requisite height to be a problem for opposing teams, he has only averaged 4.7 rebounds per game over the course of his career. Part of the Clippers’ lackluster numbers have been due to Doc’s scheme, but if they decide to crash the boards more aggressively this season, their success may hinge on Danilo’s ability to capitalize on his size advantage over other small forwards.

Defensively, Gallinari’s numbers don’t jump off the page (0.6 steals, 0.2 blocks per game last season), but his size allows him to give opposing threes fits and makes up for his lack of elite athleticism. Regardless of whether or not Austin Rivers retains his role as starting shooting guard, Gallo will be surrounded by two exceptional defenders in Jordan and newcomer Patrick Beverly. DeAndre’s presence in the paint, in particular, should cover some of Danilo’s vertical shortcomings and give the Clippers a chance at finishing in the top ten in league defensive efficiency.

All in all, The Rooster’s offensive versatility and scoring prowess should quickly make him an integral part of a Clippers squad that will look drastically different for the first time in six seasons. Nobody has ever questioned his talent, and Los Angeles should be the perfect stage for him to show the rest of the league the extent of what he is capable of as a featured option on a playoff contender.