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Danilo Gallinari is an underrated NBA defender

Often known for his offensive game, Gallo’s defensive IQ worth talking about.

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The words Danilo Gallinari and good defender aren’t a pairing you hear often.

Often regarded as primarily an offensive player, not much thought is ever put into Gallinari’s defensive abilities. Not to mention that when you look at some of his defensive numbers, there’s a lot left to be desired. In the 2016-17 season alone, Gallinari had a Defensive Rating of 110.0, meaning that’s the expected amount of points that Gallinari would allow on defense over 100 possessions.

Despite all of that, Gallo should be considered an underrated NBA defender. Not because of his individual stats, but because of the leadership qualities he brings on the defensive side of the court. LA Clippers coach Doc Rivers will be the first to tell you about the defensive presence Gallinari brings on the court.

“Gal is surprisingly loud on defense. I didn’t think he was that intrigued by defense. What you find out is the exact opposite. He has a very high IQ, and in the games that he did play last year we were better defensively, because he’s a very active talker. It’s really nice to have.”

When delving into the Clippers team numbers from last season, you can see the Gallinari effect that coach Doc Rivers is talking about. In the 21 games when Danilo Gallinari was on the court, the Clippers had a defensive rating of 103.1, as opposed to the rating of 109.6 when he was off the court. The stat is something one of the league’s premiere defenders, Avery Bradley, also noticed.

“I personally think Gallinari is an underrated defender. Watching him play, his 1 on 1 defense is pretty good and he’s very talkative. He’s not a guy that’s going to get down and lock a guy up possession after possession, but as far as team defense, he keeps everyone together.”

Additionally, opponents scored 67.8 per 100 possessions points when he was on the court, compared to the 91.6 when he was off the court. That means the Clippers were 23.8 points better defensively per 100 possessions when Gallinari was on the court. There are plenty of factors that can go into this rating, like who else he was on the floor with, but the general takeaway is that the team plays better defensively when Danilo is on the court.

As the NBA season begins, Gallo has found himself stepping into the role of a leader for the LA Clippers. The Clippers once had a problem of having too many leaders, an issue that could sometimes be visibly seen on the court when Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were on the team. Today, they’re one of the younger NBA teams. That youth is the reason why Danilo has transitioned himself into a leader.

“I think that the team needs a leader, and it’s a role I’ve always been in my career. It’s something that makes me feel comfortable and something that I’m comfortable with. I like being in that position.”

It’s with that leadership that Gallinari asserts his defensive presence. He uses his role as a means to communicate the defensive principles out loud to other Clipper players.

“On the defensive end, talking makes life easier. Not just for me, but for my teammates. Especially knowing the plays, what the team is going to run before they run it. It helps everybody out.”

In an era of analytics, it would be very easy to write off the defensive impact of Danilo Gallinari. Sometimes you need to look further, watch the games, and observe the overall chemistry of a team when a player is on the court. While Gallo may not individually be a phenomenal defensive player, his high basketball savvy will make an entire team better defensively.