Danilo Gallinari’s career has been reminiscent of Space Mountain at Disneyland. While Gallo (if you didn’t already know, that means “rooster” in Italian) has always fit the mold of a “professional scorer,” he has rarely ever been healthy enough to properly showcase these talents. The only season in which he has played more than 71 games came in his second season with the New York Knicks. Meanwhile, excluding his rookie year in which he only played 28 games, Gallo has averaged over 14 points a game every season but 2014-15. You guessed it: he only played 59 games that season.
In what was one of his last moves as President of Basketball Operations, Doc Rivers acquired Gallo via a three-team sign-and-trade, as Danilo inked a 3-year, $65 million deal. This move was seen as a desperate attempt to keep the Clippers in the Western Conference playoff fold with the exodus of Chris Paul. Giving an injury-laded, 29-year-old over $20 million a year was extremely risky even given the scoring upside Gallo possesses. This risk was not initially validated as, of course, Gallo was injured pretty much all of last season, and only participated in 21 games. He had glute trouble, then more glute trouble, then hand trouble, with the result being a career-low year in both shooting percentage and three-point shooting percentage. Gallo really never looked quite right the whole season, as he only put up five games of 20+ scoring and averaged his lowest rebound and assist totals since 2015. The Clippers were 11-10 with him in the lineup, and he started every game he played last season. Rhythm was clearly an issue due to Lou Williams and then Tobias Harris coming in February, with Gallo hoisting 11.1 shots a game despite only converting 39.8 percent of them, and looking mostly uncomfortable on the court.
It shouldn’t have come as any surprise that Gallo’s name was in trade talks this offseason, as star players like Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler expressed interest in the Clippers. While the Clippers made it clear that prized rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and budding star Tobias Harris were completely off the market, no mention was made of Gallo. The Clippers seemed O.K. with potentially letting the expensive 30-year-old leave in a trade. It makes complete sense given his injury history and inconsistent first year in a Clipper uniform.
However, while Leonard went up north and Butler is still stewing in a Timberwolves uniform, Gallo has gone about silencing the critics of his game. He has quietly become one of the best players on a hungry Clippers squad that has their eyes on a playoff run.
Currently, Gallo is averaging 20 points and 6.1 rebounds a game. He is doing this on an astounding 45.9|46.9|97.2 shooting split, all career highs through ten games, and has become a very impactful player for L.A. The crazy part of all of this, he’s only averaging 29.2 minutes a game.
Having a fully healthy Gallo is found money for the Clippers. They now have three players that can easily get 20 points in a night in Harris, Lou, and Danilo, with each averaging 19+ to begin the season. Gallo has adapted to these new lineups in L.A. and looks very comfortable on the court with both the first unit, and sprinkles of the second unit. He has been getting shots from all over the floor easily converting shots over the three’s and four’s that typically guard him due to his 6’11” frame. He is adept at getting slow-footed fives to switch onto him and taking them off the dribble in isolation, as well as posting up smaller defenders and finishing over them at the rim. He can get his shot off from anywhere. and has even shown flashes of athleticism with a few and-one dunks this season. His ability to see passing lanes over smaller defenders has been clutch this season, and his basketball IQ has been shown with a few smart cuts to the rim.
The one aspect of Gallo’s game that has also been impressive this season is his ability to get to the line. He has taken 55 free throws already and converted 54 of them, including 50 in a row. He uses his frame well, as his length allows him to always be around the rim when in the paint, and he gets smacked on the arms quite frequently when he goes up. Along with this, his movement has looked a lot better this season as he is running off a ton of picks, both off and on-ball. He still moves like some heavily sauced lasagna (shoutout Italy), but his efficiency in his movements has improved, as every step is meant to score. Fun fact about Gallo: Did you know that he is currently eighth all-time among ALL active players in offensive rating? That’s good for 22nd all-time factoring in retired players as well. Pretty crazy right?
Besides, what we know about his offensive game, another aspect of Gallo’s game that looks much improved is his defense. He has always been regarded as a mediocre perimeter and interior defender, but with the hire of defensive-minded assistant coach, Rex Kalamian, he looks better. He is currently fourth on the team in defensive rating, only allowing 107.8 points per 100 possessions, and has the ability to guard 3-5. The Clippers are one of the best defensive teams in the league right now, and this new mantra/identity of “Clamp City,” has helped them to a 6-4 record thus far.
Gallo will continue to be under the radar this season: he is not a flashy player, and the Clippers are now battling against King James for shine in L.A. (Another bothersome tidbit for me...the Clippers have played ZERO national T.V. games thus far and only have four scheduled for the rest of the year). However, Gallo could be a near 50/40/90 guy this season if healthy, and will continue to be a huge piece for the Clips. Sleep all you want on the man, but it’ll come back to bite you when the Clips come to town.