#NuggetsRank No. 3: Danilo Gallinari

After a lengthy delay, coming in at number three in our #NuggetsRank series is starting small forward Danilo Gallinari. Despite possessing perhaps the best combination of skill and athleticism on the Nuggets’ entire roster, Gallo trailed behind the top two in our #NuggetsRank voting and ends up as the popular pick for third-best player on the team.

That’s not an indictment of Gallo’s potential as much as it is a byproduct of lowered expectations following two years of stop-and-go progress in Denver. He’s the one player who’s really defined the post-Carmelo Nuggets up to this point: unconventional and dangerous under the right circumstances, but unreliable and still a work in progress in just about every facet of the game.

Four years into Gallo’s career, it’s fair to say we’ve learned more about his limitations than his ability to become the next Dirk Nowitzki. Gallo is mobile and supremely skilled for a player his size, but he’s not particularly explosive in any area and lacks the mindset of a traditional NBA scorer. Gallo’s game right now is more about kick-out jumpers and transition rather than actually handling the ball and creating.

Rounding out his offense to the point he’s a consistent scoring threat is where Gallo can make a significant leap as a player. The frustrating thing is he’s already been through several stages in his identity and hasn’t settled on one. In New York, he was a three-point specialist slowly learning to balance his game with inside play. In Denver, he’s been a foul-drawing machine with a broken jump-shot. The truth obviously lands him somewhere in the middle, but fans seem genuinely torn between appreciating Gallo’s unselfish game and expecting something more.

Gallo signed a reasonable four-year extension last season, the first of several long-term commitments the Nuggets made to players brought in entirely by Ujiri. If the hope is to hit the jackpot by assembling a core of budding young talent entering their primes, the gamble on Gallo still looks as good as any Denver has made since.

He’s currently sporting one of the five worst True Shooting percentages among NBA starters, so it’s tough to remember that Gallo is still a young player who was really starting to establish himself with the Nuggets last season. He was by far Denver’s most important player in terms of adjusted plus/minus, with all Nuggets lineups being significantly better on offense (+2.2) and defense (-6) with Gallinari in the fold. Here at Roundball Mining Company, much of our offseason banter focused on Gallo’s expanding role and his opportunity to have the breakout year many thought was coming last season.

I will refrain from making any snap judgments of Gallo’s early season struggles, but it is becoming clear he will struggle to guard the 4 and 5. He’s clearly at his best in a bigger lineup out on the perimeter where Gallo’s a constant mismatch with his size and offensive skills. Playing next to Harrington and Kenneth Faried in the front court has him stuck in the low post and struggling to see the ball on offense with Lawson, Miller, and now Iguodala all fighting for touches.

I’ve been encouraged with Gallo’s willingness to look for his shot this season and I still think he’s ready to put up a solid year. The major missing ingredient is the free throws. Gallo is averaging nearly two fewer shots at the rim than last season, despite an increased number of overall attempts. That clearly indicates the problem is deeper than simply not getting calls. Getting his shot attempts distributed evenly over more games will give us a much better picture of Gallo’s progress on the offensive end, where he has at least seemed willing to take on a bigger role.

Since being traded for Carmelo Anthony, Gallo seems to have inherited the title of default scapegoat when things go bad. It does seem like waiting for him to break out has become an annual rite of passage, but he remains a motivated 24 year-old slowed by injury just as much as anything else. He is no longer the great white hope with the promise of youth and boundless potential on his side, but Gallo should do plenty this season to justify our ranking of third-best. After two years and a shiny new $44 million invested last season, I’m just not sure that’s enough anymore.

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Charlie Yao

Contributor at Roundball Mining Company since 2010. Unhealthily obsessed with Nuggets basketball since 2002. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at the links on the left.

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  • Mitchell

    Playing next to Harrington?

    Anyways, im tired of the gallo apologists. The fact is, outside of a few games last season, he just hasnt been any good. He cant ahoot from the outside, he hasnt been getting to the line, and his shot selection is terrible.
    Masai should sell high on gallo before the rest of the league realizes his true value.

    • Jeff

      Sorry to hear that you’re tired of people like me that like Gallo’s game and think he’s an important part of the team.

  • Gregory

    Much has been said about the genius of Masai Ujiri. Well exactly how good of a trade was the Camerlo swap with the Knicks. Let’s see, we received Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov. Felton is back on the Knicks (for essentially Andre Miller). And Chandler, Gallinari and Mozgov are contributing little. Melo’s team? Second best record in NBA. I realize Melo was not staying but couldn’t we have received at least one decent player in return?

    • Bob

      Gallo(great player when healthy), Mozgov(solid backup big), Chandler(good player when healthy), Felton(traded directly for Andre Miller, Jordan Hamilton, 2013 2nd round pick, and indirectly Kenneth Faried), Koufos (nice rotation big man), 2012 2nd round pick(used on Quincey Miller), 2013 2nd round pick, 2014 1st round pick, 2016 right to swap 1st round picks, Trade exception(used to get rudy fernandez and corey brewer for free)

      • Gregory

        I understand the assets. But none of these players are good today, they’re all backups in my estimation. Referring to Gallo as great is almost delusional. I would trade all of these assets away for Melo if he would stay here.

        • James

          Bit early to be giving the knicks any credit for being good. Wait for the playoffs, they won’t be healthy, woodson most likely will have lost the team by then, etc… Realistically, the knicks and the nuggets both have no chance at a title this year, I’d rather have young players with potential rather than a team loaded with flawed and aged players

          • Gregory

            I don’t think those were the only two options. For example, if you target someone like a Rudy Gay in a multi-team trade, you have a player that is 80% of what Melo is offensively and about 150% better defensively. Overall, it’s almost a push. Then you have a really good player at one position vs what I consider several reserves players. Yes, the Nuggets received several assets, but you can only play 5 players at one time…1 star > 3 average or slightly below average players.

        • Mark B

          We gave it seven years! What more did you want?? We tried everything to get a championship with Melo. It didn’t work. Maybe it was Georges fault but thats for this season to decide.

  • GIANLUCA

    gallo is not good because Karl FIRE !

  • Amel

    Acquiring Iguodala was a big, big mistake. Gallo and him have almost the same skillset, add to this that we gave away our best shooter and you’ll see that it’s definitively not just Gallo’s fault for his very slow start.

    • al68

      la adquisicion de iggy y la de Mcgee tambien, son 2 grandes errores.

  • Mark B

    Obviously the truehoop crew either submitted their order before the season began or they have collectively lost their TV access. Gallo is playing like a second option bench player at best right now. George needs to show him this so he can get his head right. No more melo like performances!

  • Andrew K

    I have seen better days from Gallo. But what this means to me is that his potential is way above what he is currently playing. I want to see him continue to shoot and attack. He needs to come to terms with himself how good he can be if he decides to. I know I sound cheesy, but it’s all part of sports psychology.

  • Henry

    Charlie, very nice assessment of Gallo. Not being contrarian here, just wanting to note Gallo’s defensive effort and effectiveness last night guarding the Grizzlies’ Marc Gasol. That sequence toward the end, where he clearly frustrated Gasol into a turnover, was some pretty damn fine post defense against a taller, stronger, more experienced big.

    Of course, Gallo was hot as a defender in plenty of situations last night. I happen to believe that helps him be more effective on offense, as well, though I can’t prove such a subjective assertion.

    Loving RMC these days, especially as it contrasts with Denver Stiffs (which is fabulous, as well). Thanks to all you guys.

  • Damian

    Where is #4? I don’t see it…