Every year around this time ESPN introduces its annual #NBArank series codifying all 500 players in the NBA from least to most valuable. Last year Roundball Mining Company decided to get in on the action and began ranking each of the players on the Denver Nuggets’ final 15-man roster in the same fashion. We’ve polled all seven of our writers, asking them to arrange each player on the Nuggets roster from one to 15 (one being the best, 15 the least valuable), then we added everyone’s scores together to come up with a single, definitive list of the 15 “most valuable” Denver Nuggets. Checking in at number two is Danilo Gallinari, up one spot from last season.
Gallinari is a capable and efficient scorer. During the 2012 season he took nearly 60% of his two point attempts at the rim, converting at a solid rate of 50.5%. He also drew 5.4 free thows per 36 minutes, better than all but 20 players in the league. His three point shooting mark of 37% and free throw shooting mark of 82% were both well above the league average. None of these numbers are spectacular individually, but as a whole they show Gallinari is effective at scoring in a variety of ways.
Gallinari has also shown the ability to put the team on his back for stretches late in games, hitting important three pointers or drawing free throws to cut into a deficit or extend a lead. However, he has not made a habit of carrying a heavy scoring load game in and game out; he scored 25 or more points in only 8 games last season, but was in single digits 13 times (not counting the Dallas game where he was injured early) and had a modest usage rate of 21.3%. He often didn’t touch the ball in a possession where a less efficient player put up a low-percentage shot. He also hasn’t shown a tendency to create for others, deferring to other playmakers the majority of the time. It is not clear whether he will become more of a focal piece on offense, or how he will respond if he does.
Kevin Durant reportedly told Italian sports journalist Emiliano Carchia that Gallinari was one of the NBA’s toughest defensive players. While the comment may have been exaggerated, it contains at least a grain of truth — Gallinari has a rare combination of size, speed, and strength that allows him to effectively guard many of the league’s best wing players. His defensive fundamentals are good but not great, and he is rarely caught gambling for steals or otherwise out of position. This also means he rarely gets steals, posting the lowest steal percentage of any Nuggets non-Center last season.
Ultimately, Gallinari’s ability to maximize his worth to the Nuggets comes down to his ability to stay healthy and to expand his game from “good at most things” to “good at most things and great at a few”. At the age of 25, he is still young enough that he may have a breakout year where potential turns into on-court effectiveness. But he may also spend the season struggling with inconsistency as he recovers from injury and gets back into game shape. For the Nuggets to be successful in the postseason, Gallinari needs to be closer to the top end of that spectrum than the bottom end.
15. Anthony Randolph
14. Quincy Miller
13. Timofey Mozgov
12. Jordan Hamilton
11. Randy Foye
10. Darrell Arthur
9. J.J. Hickson
8. Andre Miller
7. Evan Fournier
6. Nate Robinson
5. JaVale McGee
4. Kenneth Faried
3. Wilson Chandler
2. Danilo Gallinari
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