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Clippers Retrospective: Danilo Gallinari Was Great in a Clipper Uniform, When He Was Healthy

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Danilo Gallinari had a career year with the Clippers last season, only a year after the oft-injured forward played less than a quarter of the season.

Golden State Warriors v LA Clippers - Game Six Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images

Key Stats

  • Gallinari was brought over to L.A., in the summer of 2017, as a part of a three-team trade involving Jamal Crawford, Clipper legend Diamond Stone and a first-round pick L.A. owned from the Houston Rockets.
  • He signed a 3 year, $64.7 million contract with the team, with the third year partially guaranteed
  • Appeared in 21 games in his first season in L.A. after dealing with both glute and hand injuries, where he averaged career worst numbers in field goal percentage and three point percentage.
  • Was finally healthy last year and had the best season of his career, at age 30, putting up 19.8 points a game (career high), 6.1 rebounds (career high) and 2.6 assists while shooting 46.3% from the field (career high) and 43.3% from three (career high - min. 30 games).
  • Was the “quiet assassin” among a very vocal L.A. Clipper group last season, and was perhaps the best player on the team all season, especially looking at advanced metrics.

Expectations

Clippers fans had mixed expectations for the “Rooster”. I think you first have to look at the expectations of the team as a whole after dealing Chris Paul. While they retained Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the uncertainty of what the Clippers were going to be able to do without their incumbent point GAWD was palpable. After Blake and DJ, what did the Clips have? Fans (and honestly more so, analysts and TV people) were thinking of a potential rebuild with new, unproven players all around. By and large, these were players that the Rockets, and other teams in the league, had essentially given up on. So for Gallo, given his injury history, expectations could have been fairly low.

However, in what was one of his last moves as a coach-GM, Doc Rivers gave Danilo a monster deal (three-years, $64.7 million). Therefore, the Clippers had a guy making more than $20 million a year, coming off three straight injury-plagued seasons in Denver. While he played well in those seasons, Gallo’s expectations were probably unfairly high in L.A. his first season, especially coming off the highs of Lob City.

Reality

You really have to take Gallo’s performance on a year by year basis in L.A. After his first season in L.A., where a literal butt injury and some hand problems forced him to miss 61 games, Danilo was seen as collateral damage in trying to quickly rehab the team after the immediate post-Lob City team fell apart, especially following the Blake Griffin trade. While the team did well and surprised a lot of people, going 42-40, Gallo was basically invisible, as his availability was extremely limited, and his play when in the game was below par.

Fast forward to year two. The Clippers had zero expectations of being anywhere close to a playoff berth in the West. Gallo was finally healthy, but the team was considered a rag-tag bunch that would be focusing on the Summer of 2019 in acquiring either Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard. Well, not only did the Clippers massively overachieve, but Gallo did so as well, powering the Clippers to a 48-34 record. Averaging career highs in points, rebounds, field goal percentage and three point percentage, Gallo was a sleeper pick for third team All-NBA and had a legitimate argument for being considered perhaps the most underrated player in the whole league. I mean, take a look at some of these advanced analytics from March 29 of this past year.

“Gallinari is currently tied for fourth in the league in three-point percentage (43.8%), fourth in the league in free-throw percentage (90.5%), 11th in true shooting percentage (63.4%), and 15th in offensive box plus/minus (4.2). He’s also fifth in the entire league in offensive rating (124.9), top 20 in first quarter scoring (6.3 avg in 1st), top 20 in win shares per 48 minutes and has a net rating above All-Stars like: LeBron James, Ben Simmons, Kemba Walker, Karl-Anthony Towns and Blake Griffin”.

Pretty wild right? Don McLean, during a preseason broadcast, said that if Gallo played at least 65 games, the Clippers would be a playoff team. The Rooster went on to play 68 games, and L.A. shocked everyone last season.

Legacy

Danilo will be looked upon very fondly among Clipper fans. While he didn’t necessarily play well in his only playoff series as a Clipper against the hated Warriors, Gallo was the best player in L.A. last season not named LeBron James, and seemed to really embrace playing in the city of Angels. He turned a very tough first year into a career one the next, and helped carry the Clippers to that postseason berth. He also had a nice expiring deal that secured the Clippers Paul George, which in turn landed them Kawhi Leonard. While Gallo might miss his teammates and Los Angeles, he should get the bulk of the shots in OKC and, as long as he’s healthy, will continue to get paid and be an underrated contributor to whatever team he plays for. Ci mancherai Danilo!