According to ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, the Clippers will be aggressive in their pitch to free agent forward Danilo Gallinari. Wojnarowski discussed Gallinari’s free agency with Ramona Shelburne on Saturday’s episode of The Jump on ESPN2.
Woj noted that the Clippers’ aggressiveness will extend to their financial offer. He projected that Gallinari could make as much as $17-19 million, but there has been no indication what offer the Clippers are considering making the Italian forward. Currently, the Clippers only have the mid-level exception to offer free agents, worth a maximum of four years and $36 million. To clear additional cap room, the Clippers would have to trade some combination of Jamal Crawford, Lou Williams, and Wesley Johnson. Clearing all three would open up almost $17.7 million, putting the Clippers squarely in Wojnarowski’s projected price range.
However, there are clear downsides to such a move. The initial and obvious negative would be losing three bench players, especially Williams and Crawford, which would leave LAC very thin at the guard spots. Creating cap room would also force the Clippers to renounce the $7.3 million trade exception they received as part of the Chris Paul trade, and they would not be able to use the $8.4 million non-taxpayer mid-level exception to add another free agent. Instead, they would have just the room exception, worth $4.328 million. One candidate for the room exception could be Zach Randolph, a veteran power forward who the Clippers are interested in as injury insurance for Blake Griffin.
Furthermore, giving Gallinari such a massive deal would impact the Clippers’ financial situation next summer. They would still be able to open a maximum salary slot for a new free agent, but they would have to renounce both DeAndre Jordan and Austin Rivers in order to do so, and they would have very little flexibility to put together a roster beyond the new free agent, Gallinari, Griffin, and inexpensive young pieces like Brice Johnson, Sam Dekker, and Montrezl Harrell. If Gallinari comes at a discount, or the Clippers land a cheaper wing, they’d have an easier time building a team next summer.
Perhaps most troubling, however, is Gallinari’s injury history. He has played only 50 games a season over the last 7 years, including missing the entire 2013-14 season and averaging 58 games per season over the three seasons since then. What’s enticing, however, is what Gallinari has done on the floor when he’s healthy. Last season he shot 45% from the field and 39% from deep, posting averages of 18 points and 5 rebounds per game. At 6’10”, but skilled, he’s comfortable on both ends of the floor at either forward position, opening the door for really interesting small-ball lineups alongside either Griffin or Jordan. He’ll also turn 29 this August, putting him right on the same timeline as Griffin, Jordan, and Beverley.