It’s been nearly one year since Danilo Gallinari arrived in Denver and he has the Nuggets already talking extension. The energetic Italian is widely to believed to be primed for a breakout season as one of the most intriguing talents on a young Nuggets team. With the prospect of Gallo becoming a long-term Nugget soon, we go 3-on-3 with the full Roundball crew to discuss all things Gallinari. In case you missed our previous installments the format is simple – three questions, three TrueHoop bloggers and one spirited debate.
1.) How would you evaluate where Gallo is as a player now and how good he could be in the future?
Charlie: Gallo has developed a bit slowly and as a result I’m not yet ready to crown him as one of the better small forwards in the league. He is a model of efficiency thanks to decent 3 point shooting and his ability to draw fouls on mismatches. However Gallo is still unpolished as a player and it’s become evident with Denver’s haphazard offense struggling to get consistent results. Gallo’s a nice shooter but he really lacks the array of offensive tools that could make him a nightmare for opposing players to guard. According to mySynergySports Gallo’s getting about 16% of his touches in isolation where he’s shooting an abysmal 28%. He’s a good offensive player that right now is purely reliant on others getting him easy looks.
I’ve been a big fan of Gallo since his arrival in Denver, but I have not yet seen much to suggest he could be an all-star level player. He is a very unconventional small forward, closer to Hedo Turkoglu than say a Gerald Wallace. Like those two, I think he projects to be a solid starter with a unique skillset but not a top-level talent who changes games.
Jeremy: I believe Danilo Gallinari is the most difficult Nugget player to evaluate and to prove it I am going to write far too many words in my answer to this question. Despite his lack of grace, he can put the ball in the basket and he has shown growth in two crucial areas. His ratio of three point shots to two point shots is stabilizing nicely. He now attempts nearly as many shots at the rim as he does from behind the arc plus he is proving himself to be a capable passer. His assist rate has increased significantly without seeing an increase in turnovers.
Defensively, things are a little different. He really is a tweener. He is best suited to defend small forwards, or stretch fours, however too frequently he is tasked with defending power forwards in the post and as Paul Millsap displayed on Sunday, Gallo is not capable of doing so.
Looking ahead, the future is bright, but I am worried he will always be dependent on his teammates to put him in position to score. He does a good job of getting to the rim and the foul line; however, his drives usually begin after action from a teammate has created a seam. Gallo is not the kind of player who can catch the ball, attack a defense and create a quality shot. He also needs to develop a post-up game and become a better three point shooter. His age bodes well for the likelihood of further development, but I do not see him advancing much past what he is now.
Kalen: First let me say Gallo’s ceiling is as high as he wants it to be. He’s an athletic 6-foot-10 wing who can shoot lights out from beyond the arc, which is the exact same player profile as the two-time scoring champion and likely soon-to-be MVP of the league, Kevin Durant. Though Gallo will never be as good as the best player in the Northwest Division, he can still make a strong push for the All Star team in the near future. Right now he’s still developing and learning his role in the offense but the way he’s already improved in such a little amount of time should give Nuggets fans high hopes going forward.
2.) Which part of Gallo’s game is the most promising and conversely, which part concerns you the most?
Charlie: He’s got above-average playmaking ability for a player his size. I think Gallo has point forward skills and could be very effective handling the ball in pick and roll situations. It gives him the space to open up those aggressive drives to the rim and creates shot opportunities for a team that’s woefully bad in the half court. Gallo has good passing skills and according to mySynergySports, he’s shooting better than 50% and getting fouled at a high rate as the pick and roll ballhandler.
Where I worry about Gallo is his ability to perform as a first or second scoring option. What’s frustrating about his play is the fact he goes through hot and cold streaks in a wildly unpredictable manner. Often times he’ll score the bulk of his points in a short stretch and you end up with a 35-minute performance in which he only produced for a 5 or 10 minute stretch. I don’t know if Gallo is a guy you can count on to perform in big moments with the game on the line consistently.
Jeremy: I think his shot selection for a player who is so young and carries so much of the scoring burden is very good. However, some of that goes back to my answer to question number one as his opportunities are created for him. His ability to defend on the block is the biggest concern, but in my mind it is up to George Karl to avoid putting him in that situation, or to provide him with help when he is caught guarding a Millsap or DeJuan Blair. Gallo does not have to be a lockdown defender, but he must be able to carry his share of the load on a championship caliber team defense. Right now, I am not sure he is capable of that.
Kalen: Gallo shows a lot of promise in two categories: scoring and miscellaneous. His ability to shoot and get to the line is by far the best on the team however he’s also quietly played commendable defense and distributed the ball well for a man his size. I think as time goes by he’ll continue to improve in these areas but it’s imperative that he develops all aspects of his game (especially rebounding) so that he doesn’t pigeonhole himself into being just a spot-up shooter. My biggest concern with Gallinari is that he won’t have anybody around to notify and teach him the proper techniques that will in turn allow him to fully take advantage of his size and skill-set.
3.) Is it a good idea for the Nuggets to extend Gallinari now before the January 25th deadline for restricted free agents?
Charlie: No, I think it’s a bad idea. I do not think the way Denver is building their roster is necessarily the best model for long-term success. The way the Afflalo situation was handled suggests the Nuggets aren’t really respecting the market for their players either. The Nuggets seem jaded by this idea that trading Carmelo allows them to skip rebuilding and they’ll win a championship by re-signing all the pieces they got back for their disgruntled star.
I like Gallo, I would like him to return to the Nuggets simply because he competes so hard and takes pride in all areas of the game. He has no ego and you never have to question his all-out effort. However I strongly believe Gallo needs to be evaluated and the Nuggets can’t be so sure that their spending splurge is actually going to help them succeed in the playoffs. By the end of the season, we’ll have a better idea of where Gallo stands with the team and that’s the time to make the best decision for everyone’s future. Why rush?
Jeremy: I would not extend Gallo this year. I have three primary reasons for this. First of all, you run the risk of overpaying him. Extensions are not based on merit, but on potential. What if he does not remain on track for reaching his potential, or worse, his potential is overestimated? Plus you put yourself in the position of bidding against yourself. Of course, there is also the chance that Denver could end up having to pay him more down the road to retain him than they could sign him for this month. That is a chance I am willing to take. If his play shows he deserves big money, then he should receive it, but not before it is necessary to make that commitment. Secondly, Denver entered 2011-12 with a great deal of payroll flexibility. By extending Gallo, nearly all of that flexibility will be gone. The Nuggets will have exhausted most of their available money on retaining a handful of the pieces that comprise a flawed roster. Thirdly, extending Gallinari will extinguish most of his trade value. By locking down the assets of this flawed team to long term deals, it effectively removes the possibility of packaging them for a better player, or players. If a team is trading away a star, they want young cheap players, not young upper middle class salary players.
Restricted Free Agency can be a tremendous tool for management. It was working perfectly in the negotiations with Afflalo until the Nuggets caved and overpaid him (sorry, I had to get that in there).
Kalen: I think so. The way I look at it, Gallinari’s value is only going to increase as the year goes on and by the time free agency hits there will certainly be a handful of teams willing to overpay for a guy as talented as he is. I’m always in favor of locking up your franchise cornerstones as early as soon as possible to ensure overpaying down the road. The problem is Denver just handed out some very generous contracts to Nene and Afflalo, both of whom Gallinari is better than already, which is likely going to drive up his asking price even more. If the Nuggets can manage to strike a deal around the $10 million per year mark, I think it would have to be seen as a pretty fair compromise for both sides.