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Grade the Signing: Danilo Gallinari is the New Starting Small Forward for the Clippers

The Clippers’ biggest splash in free agency this summer was the signing of Danilo Gallinari to be their starting small forward for the next three years. Here is how the Clips Nation staff grades the signing.

Boston Celtics v Denver Nuggets Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Erik Olsgaard: B+

Despite what certain news outlets felt was a "same old Clippers" move, the fact is the 2017 Clippers, now extremely deep but far less top-heavy, needed a versatile scorer who could be counted on in crunch-time. Though he's always been injury prone, Gallinari fits the bill and is entering his prime years. Yes, he gives up a lot on defense (particularly as his injuries have piled up), but last year he had his most efficient season since his rookie campaign, and that's not nothing. He's a guy who can play both forward positions, legitimately stretches the floor, and figures to fit well next to the rest of the Clippers front-court. While the aforementioned news outlets may be correct that this is a "same old Clippers" move, they're forgetting that in today's NBA, staying relevant is the best way to tread water. Starting over with youth was never a good idea for a team featuring Blake Griffin in his prime years, so I'm perfectly fine with this acquisition.

Kenneth Armstrong: A

I am really excited about Gallinari; so excited, in fact, that I do not really care what the price for him was. I simply want the Clippers to experiment after years of tweaking on the margins around the CP-BG-DJ core. I see Gallinari as a high-risk, high-reward deal — and representative of a looser attitude that is developing around the team. Although I, of course, want the Clippers to do well, it will be cool to see the Clippers have three very skilled and athletic 'bigs' on the court at the same time, even if there is a drop off in the win totals. So, with all that said, I am more interested in what Gallinari's signing means for the soon-to- be-developing culture of this new Clippers team than whether or not their offensive or defensive efficiency metrics go up or down.

Thomas Wood: B

Doc finally gets his small forward. Sure, this forward doesn't play small much anymore, and while the offensive fit will be comfy, the defensive fit should be something less so. And as league lineups shrink to fit one or no bigs, the Clippers may be closing games with three. But you take the talent and work the rest out later. Even if it means using boxing gloves.

Lucas Hann: C+

I really like Gallo as a player, and I think having a scoring and shooting threat of his caliber from the small forward position is going to be an exciting new twist to the Clippers' offense. The fit is questionable defensively, with Blake and Gallo both as big forwards who aren't excellent defenders, and there are also some roster construction questions raised by the Clippers' moves to sign backup big men without having a ton of backup wings with size (the case could be made that both Sam Dekker and Wesley Johnson are better at the power forward position than on the wing.) The real reason Gallo doesn't earn a great grade is the contract. The $20 million annual salary is a fine, but not great, value for a player of Danilo's caliber when his injury history is factored in. What's really the problem is the three fully guaranteed years--taking 3 of the 5 seasons that the Clippers just locked Blake Griffin up for, and drastically limiting their flexibility. Building a contending roster is difficult and not always possible, but restricting your long-term flexibility to add a big contract that doesn't boost you into contention is a bitter pill to swallow. All in all, it's a solid move. It makes the Clippers a better basketball team. But it isn't the same kind of game-changer that it would have been to add a player like Gallo while Chris Paul was still on the roster.

Max Jeffrey: B

Following the departure of Chris Paul, and after agreeing to sign Blake Griffin to a 5-year max deal, it became clear that the Clippers were headed for change but desired to remain competitive. And they needed to find an offensive-minded talent to plug into their starting rotation. With the signing of Danilo Gallinari, they finally acquired the kind of offensively-versatile wing they'd been hoping for. His injury history is cause for concern, and the 3-year/$65 million asking price is a bit steep. But if he can stay healthy, he will add a whole new dynamic to the Clippers rotation and fans should be very excited.

James Nisky: A

Doc Rivers signed a 28-year old former #6 draft pick with 8 years experience, coming off a season averaging 18 ppg, for a hair over 20 million per season for three seasons. DG’s last season was above his career averages in almost every statistical category, and he played the third most minutes in a single season in his career. Without stat geeking in intensive detail, Gallo is quite literally one of the most efficient scorers in the NBA. We understand Gallo is an injury risk of sorts, but he’s now the most skilled shooter on the Clippers, an intelligent all-around player, and a capable rebounder. By all accounts, Gallo is the second forward the Clippers have dreamed for the entire Blake Griffin era. He’s not the tenacious defender Luc was at the 3, but his length combined with Blake and DJ should cause new problems for offenses, and he gives Doc more front court options because he can play the 4 as well. He’s unlikely to play more than 70 games --- we know. But, last season was statistically excellent compared to his career averages which suggests that, although injuries keep him off the court, they don’t significantly affect what he does when he’s on the court. Doc Rivers negotiated a dollar and years discount proportional to the injury risk and/or anticipated missed time Gallo presents. This is one of the best value contracts in the NBA.

Robert Flom: B-

Danilo Gallinari is a very good basketball player. Barring something catastrophic, he will be the best Clippers’ small forward since Corey Maggette in his prime over a decade ago. His signing also demonstrates that the Clippers are still a relevant franchise capable of recruiting high-end free agents. This is important, as there was a fear that without Chris Paul, the Clippers might backslide in franchise perception a bit. Gallinari’s signing helps to ensure that the Clippers will remain a solid-enough playoff team, and a destination for free agents in the future. The issues with the signing are two-fold. First, while he’s still capable of playing small forward, his best position, especially defensively, is probably power forward. This would be great for some teams, but the Clippers’ two best players are a power forward and center who both require heavy minutes, limiting Gallo’s effectiveness and versatility. Second, he’s a large injury risk, and the Clippers paid a lot of money for him. Even if Danilo is a well above-average starter, by the third year of his contract he will probably be quite overpaid. So even though I approve the signing, there is a significant chance that the deal doesn’t pan out the way Gallinari and the Clippers might hope.