Danilo Gallinari leads Italy to Eurobasket 2013

The Italian national team wrapped up a very successful summer with an 83-58 win over Belarus yesterday, concluding Eurobasket qualifying with a perfect 8-0 record. Danilo Gallinari led the way with 16 points and 12 rebounds to cap off an impressive stint with the national team, which won 8 straight games despite lacking Gallo’s fellow NBA talents Andrea Bargnani and Marco Bellinelli.

Eurobasket is FIBA’s bi-annual European championships which will be held in Slovenia for 2013. It’s been dominated by Spain in recent years while the Italians have sort of lingered on the international scene without much success since their silver medal win in the 2004 Olympics.

Gallo played very well on the new-look Italian team under head coach Simone Pianigiani, one of the rising stars on the European coaching scene. Italy was one of the best defensive teams in the tournament despite lacking a traditional post presence and played a very unselfish style on both ends of the court.  

Before we get into looking at Gallo’s performance, a quick disclaimer that basketball here is a bit like what you might see in summer league. Anything you choose to take away from it comes with the caveat that it may be largely meaningless when it comes to the real NBA. Just one year ago, Gallo looked horrible in a short stint with Olimpia Milano during the lockout before going on an absolute tear to start the shortened NBA season. Nevertheless, it is good to see Gallo healthy and performing well against a field littered with current and future NBA talent.

Gallo finished the tournament with averages of 15.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in 26.9 minutes per game. He ranked 7th in the tournament in free throws attempted (6.4), 5th in free throws made (5.3) and 6th in fouls drawn (5.9). His penchant for attacking the rim, a staple of Denver’s offense, was on full display and Gallo also managed to throw his size around with more success, ranking 13th in defensive rebounds with 5.4 per game.

With Gallo being Italy’s best offensive player by a mile, you might think he’d initiate most of the offense and look for his own shot more than he would in the NBA. From what I saw of Italy’s games, his role on offense was a far cry from that. Coach Pianigiani gave Gallo freedom to be himself and a green light to shoot, but you rarely saw Italy try to feature him in the pick and roll. They would set him up on the wings or high post where he had plenty of space to operate thanks to Italy having about four three-point shooters on the floor at all times.

I was only able to watch highlights and portions of two games on stream, but one thing I did notice was Gallo’s fledging post game. As he has in the NBA, Gallo is very reluctant to attack a mismatch on the low block. He often just won’t back down much smaller players, looking awkward and tentative with his back to the basket in general. Italy relied on Gallo to play big thanks to his size and while he was able to deliver on the defense and rebounding front, he is still purely a perimeter player on offense. That is fine for the Nuggets at this point in his career, but Gallo will find his growth limited if he does not develop one or two moves he can go to in the extended post. At his size it will make things so much easier on the offensive end.

One of the things that has always bugged me about Gallo’s game is his reluctance to shoot coming off screens. When Gallo gets a screen, he’s looking to shoot the gap in a straight line. When that’s not there he almost always hesitates and picks up his dribble, unsure of whether to pass, shoot, or continue the drive.  The defense then always has time to collapse the passing lanes and close out on him before Gallo will force up an off-balance floater or long two-pointer. He does this in Europe too and even against smaller less-athletic defenders, Gallo misses these shots nine times out of ten. Gallo creates space so easily if he learned to just pull up and shoot I think his efficiency would skyrocket. Thanks to his outstanding ability to get to the rim, he still manages to be very efficient and connected on 54.8% of his two-point shots.

Gallo leading the team in rebounding is also a very positive sign for his development. By rebounding at a high rate he can force opposing teams to match up with his size. Defensively, Gallo is active on the perimeter and better than he’s given credit for. He has struggled to make an impact on defense in the NBA thanks to his propensity for leaking out on the break and his inability to guard players his size. Gallo does not need to become a great post defender, but he will have hold his own for his size and make his presence felt against teams who will look to bully him under the basket.

Sometime during the lockout, Gallo’s three point shot left him and hasn’t come back. He shot 32.8% from three last year, a performance I’m hoping will prove to be an anomaly. Unfortunately Gallo’s three-ball didn’t recover in Eurobasket qualifiers as he shot just 30.6% in eight games. It’s important to note Gallo missed all preparation for this tournament with back and shoulder injuries which could have affected his shot. Gallo will have a big role shooting open threes in Denver’s offense next season and I still have full confidence that he will make them if healthy. While I’m concerned about his shooting, I still don’t believe he’s all of the sudden turned into Baron Davis behind the arc.

The most important takeaway from Gallo’s summer is his experience as a leader on the floor. Gallo never scored fewer than 10 points in the tournament and was relied on to be Italy’s best player on both ends. Ultimately he helped deliver eight straight wins in a team role, some of them very ugly where he faced adversity and had to battle back. Upon his return to Denver, Gallo needs to bring the same mindset and confidence to the NBA hardwood. He and JaVale McGee are the two players capable of elevating their games to a point that can get the Nuggets to another level. By virtue of not being McGee, Gallo at this stage in his development has the best chance of making it happen.

Danilo Gallinari is quickly becoming the face of Italian basketball in the modern era, the only Italian NBA player to say yes to the national team this summer.  He was a boy on the 2009 team that failed to qualify for Eurobasket and the 2011 squad that was an afterthought. Today, he’s grown into a man leading the revival of the national team with eight straight wins en route to a top seed in Slovenia next summer. Whether or not Gallo can make the same leap in the NBA remains to be seen. If he wants it as bad as he wanted success with the national team this summer, Gallo can take on a larger role with Nuggets next season. It’s there for him.
Update: RMC reader Monimo has shared several videos featuring Gallinari’s play in the Eurobasket qualifiers. Many thanks to Monimo

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Charlie Yao

Managing Editor at Roundball Mining Company and writer since 2010. Unhealthily obsessed with Nuggets basketball since 2002. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at the links on the left.
  • CJP32

    Nice write up and thanks for the recap. Gallo needs to fine tune some things here and there, but Im confident he will step up on day one of the season.

  • Josh

    If Gallo can get his shot back and become more consistant he should do very well this season. Maybe 16ppg at 6 rebounds

  • blackhill

    I want to get NBA League Pass to watch on tv. I can’t get League Pass through my cable provider and my wife won’t switch to satellite. As such, I plan on getting Roku or Apple TV and ordering a subscription that way. Any suggestions as to which one I ought to choose? Also, do you have to watch games live? Thanks in advance.

    • omar

      did not know you could do that, how exactly does that work????

    • Chris

      Do you have an xbox? I’d recommend that over apple tv.

      • blackhill

        I don’t, but maybe I’ll get one. Thanks, Chris. Thanks also CJP32.

    • Neal

      You’re only going to be able to watch the Nugs if you do not live in CO. I live in CA and league pass was great for me. You can watch live or taped, and there are a few different online options. If you get Apple TV, which is pretty cheap comared to an Xbox, make sure you have good internet. If it’s slow the games will freeze all the time, which is very frustrating.

    • GK4Prez

      On league pass broadband, they archive the games, so you can watch them later if you miss them live.

  • CJP32

    NBA TV on my Apple Mac in HD is brilliant, live games are awesome, but I generally re-watch that same night to cut out the time outs, Ads etc. Chews up about 1-2 gigs per game. Well worth it though.

  • monimo

    Thank you, Charlie, for this nice write up. Gallo’s performance with Italy was one of the few interesting thing in the last NBA-less weeks. I saw at least 4 games and I was impressed with Gallo’s physical game: getting, to the rim, boards, dunks. In Europe, Gallinari has become a dominant player. It won’t be enough to dominant in the NBA, but I hope it will be enough to compete at high level. One more time, I was impressed by Gallo’s unselfish game. He always thinks team first and does’nt seem to care about his own numbers. And I like his very emotional way to be a leader. If (!!) he can stay healthy, Gallo is ready for a great season! Some good links to appreciate his performance:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuKhuD1-59s. The third link is about the last minutes of a very difficult game in Turkey, when Italy rallied back from -18 and won in the last seconds. Gallo had a nice and cluch block.
    P.S.:Sorry about my English … as you can imagine I’m Italian who learned to appreciate Denver and the Nuggets in the last 18 months.

    • Charlie

      Thank you, I updated the post to include the videos.

      Gallo is very important to the Nuggets’ success next year. I really enjoyed watching him with the Italian National Team as it gave me a new appreciation for his game. Also loved watching Pianigiani coach. The Italian team is very fun to watch.

  • Jake

    Gallo is not and never will be Melo. His inside weaknesses assure him of that, and not having superhuman strength hurt that cause as well. Gallo has all the physical ability to be a Bird though, and really fills the role of point forward well. He’s gutty at the freethrow line. (above he’s number 6 in frethrows taken and 5th in freethrows made) He has mad range, he rebounds well, and everyone knows that disgusting pass he made to manimal behind the back and nasty…. He fits that profile, but he’s got some stepping up to do, needs to be THE leader to Bird. And Ty is THE leader here…

    No… I stand at the same spot, if Gallo doesn’t step up this year exceeding expectations, and one of GK’s 5 closers, he’s some real attractive trade bait. Wilson or JHam needs to step up in his place to really consider letting him go.

    • https://twitter.com/denbutsu denbutsu

      Just out of curiosity, have you seen anybody actually claim that Gallo *will* be Melo (or Melo-esque)? Just wondering, because I haven’t. Not trying to be nit-picky, I’m genuinely curious, because if people have said that, I think it’s a fairly bad comparison.

  • Nugswin

    Nice catch on Gallo’s problems coming off screens. His decision making is slow to non-existent and crushes what should be excellent opportunities for him. Let’s hope the coaching staff is working with him.

    Last season it looked like his 3s were flat. He wasn’t putting any arc on the shot. Seems a simple enough fix. If he could shoot over 40% from behind the arc he could easily get to 25 ppg as that would really open up his already solid dribble drive game.

  • Mike

    Thanks for the update and its nice to see someone actually recognize that Gallo is an above avg defender. I have seen numerous people comparing him to Chandler as if there is a HUGE difference. At worst Chandler is slightly better as a good defender (not great like Kobe used to be or dominant like Tony allen or Iggy) and Gallo is above average. I think people just make the assumption because he is a Euro that he is slow footed like turkoglu or something. Gallo is really avg almost across the board defensively except that he has very good length and gives above average effort.

    The 3 point shooting is a bad sign. He probably needs to get with a shot doctor since his stats have progressively dwindled from there, but we know that he has the ability to be a 38-42% 3 pt shooter. Bird is a stretch given gallo isn’t one of the top 10 shooters in the game today let alone one of the top 5 in the history of the game. Gallo isn’t nearly as good a passer as Bird, but he is more athletic and has a much better first step. I don’t think he has the ability to be a 25 ppg scorer efficiently. There are 4 guys in the whole league that did that last year and Kobe did it very inefficiently. On this team they have two starters who can create plays on the offensive end (Iguodala and Lawson). Miller is decent as well. Gallo only needs to be a secondary creator on offense for most of the game and hopefully develops into a stellar finisher (3 pt shooting, getting to the rim for easy shots and fouls). If he could pattern his game after Paul Pierce that would be a best case scenario. Similar skill set with an extra inch or two ht. He would have to be able to create good mid-range jumpers for himself too, but that is not out of the question with his height advantage.

  • Andre

    Great piece on Gallo. I just started reading RMC the last few months and enjoy very much. Just two quick notes, Simone Pianigiani is not a new coach for the Italian national team, he’s been the coach since 2009. Also Italy did qualify for the 2011 Eurobasket they just didn’t do good and weren’t able to qualify for the Olympics (only final four teams qualify) but they didn’t make it past the round robin part of the tourney.
    heres a video of a flaming mad Pianigiani as Italy is in a timeout against Israel as evidence:
    Just wanted to make sure you knew

  • Andre

    I was also able to watch all of the first 4 qualifying games Italy played this summer and was very impressed by Gallo even though his shot was not falling, he was dominant in driving to the hoop whenever he wanted and getting to the line at will. He was also (thanks mostly to his incredible length for European basketball standards) able to rebound and defend at very high levels throughout the tournament, great summer for Gallo so far, lets just hope he can stay heathy. Because if he can its Wilson Chandler they should trade not Gallo because he’s a much more effective and consistent offensive player and with Iggy taking most of the defensive burden on the perimeter next year, the offense does become more of a need.



    • GK4Prez

      I don’t think the Nuggets should trade Gallo or Chandler this season. If one of the wings gets traded, I think it would be Brewer along with one of the centers and a draft pick or two.

      I know I am one of the few Chandler homers around, but the guy can become an effective 6th man imo, and he should do well with the 2nd unit. I also like Brewer, but he is in the last year of his contract, so moving him would be easier and makes more sense to me.

      I have never understood the Gallo/Chandler defensive comparisons, Gallo is a much better on the ball defender and Chandler is much better giving weak side help. They are both capable defenders with good size at the 3 spot. At the 4 spot, Chandler has shown that he can defend that position, he did it well enough when he played for the Knicks, and Gallo really hasn’t played the position nearly as much, so the verdict is still out on whether or not he can do it on a consistent basis.

      What do you guys think the rotation will look like this year?

      I think it will go something like: Lawsome, Iggy, and Gallo getting 32 or more minutes per game, Manimal and Mcgee getting around 28 minutes, with Dre, Chandler, Randolph, Mozgov/Koufos eating up the rest of the minutes. JHam and Brewer will probably be fighting for the scraps/leftovers.

      I think it will eventually become a 9-10 man rotation after the first week or two of the season. This is why I wouldn’t mind seeing a Mozgov/Koufos, Brewer, and a future pick or two type of trade getting done. It would solidify the minutes for the guys that need them and it would clear some roster spots for the next draft.

      • CJP32

        I think we will see Brewer get minutes before Koufos, Randolph and JHam do. Remember, GK rewards effort and hustle and Brewer gives 100% and already knows the system better than AR and JHam.

        The first 23 games of the season include 17 on the road. I agree that GK will rely on 9-10 guys for the first 2 months, then come January, depending on the record, will depend whether a trade needs to happen. Brewer can be re-signed cheap, 3 yrs at 8 million would be reasonable. I say a lot rests on the performance/health of Gallo/Chandler.

        Ty, Iggy, Gallo should get 32-35 mins each, Chandler, McGee, Faried should get 26-30 mins each, Dre maybe 20-24, and Brewer & Koufos or Mozzy will get 16-20 each. JHam, Randolph will get mins if an injury occurs.

      • Nugswin

        “I don’t think the Nuggets should trade Gallo or Chandler this season. If one of the wings gets traded, I think it would be Brewer along with one of the centers and a draft pick or two. ”

        This. Exactly. I’m also high on Chandler and think he’ll be a great 6th man this year.

        Remember, before the injuries began to hit last season, the Nuggets were in the hunt for best record in the west. Adding Chandler, Iggy, McGee, and the improvement of Gallo (not to mention Ty) and I feel Denver is pretty much a guarantee for a top 3 spot. The only question is whether to aim higher.

    • slugdugg

      I think the Nuggets should fire George Karl and hire Pianigiani.

  • Poz_303

    In the first video it was nice to see Gallo with his hops back. I felt after his ankle injury last season he had lost some of his early season bounce but looks like he regained it over the summer. I saw a video of Gallo working out with Melvin Hunt in Italy and he was hitting three after three so I think he still has his shot. Could be a mental thing during the game where he hesitates and misses, perhaps confidence but the shot is there.

    If I recall correctly there was a game against the Lakers where Gallo stepped inside the three point line and nailed a few 17 footers (high percentage). Always felt like if he did that more often he could almost score at will especially with his ability to drive to the basket.