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Free Agent Film Study: Danilo Gallinari

The 6-foot-10 power forward brings a lot of skills to the offensive end of the floor.

Veteran forward Danilo Gallinari should have plenty of suitors in free agency.

Danilo Gallinari has, seemingly, already moved on. After one successful season in Oklahoma City, the 32-year-old, unrestricted free agent tweeted a picture of himself in a blank uniform with a caption that read, “Where to next?”

The Thunder are seemingly ready to move on as well. They signaled as much when they parted ways with head coach Billy Donovan in early September, unable to “provide him the information on the future direction of the team,” according to general manager Sam Presti. Assistant Mark Daigneault was promoted to replace Donovan on Wednesday.

Though he hasn’t been all that durable over the years, Gallinari should have plenty of suitors in free agency. As a prototypical stretch four, he can improve any offense.

Last season, the Thunder scored 116.9 points per 100 possessions with Gallinari on the floor. That was the highest on-court OffRtg mark among 312 players who averaged at least 15 minutes in 25 games or more. And the difference between that mark and their efficiency with him off the floor (100.3 points scored per 100 possessions) was the biggest among 236 players who played at least 1,000 minutes for a single team.

Largest on-off-court OffRtg differential, 2019-20

On Court Off Court
Player Team MIN OffRtg MIN OffRtg Diff.
Danilo Gallinari OKC 1,834 116.9 1,652 100.3 16.6
Trae Young ATL 2,120 111.2 1,136 95.7 15.5
Devin Booker PHX 2,512 114.9 1,007 99.7 15.2
Chris Paul OKC 2,208 114.0 1,278 98.8 15.2
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander OKC 2,428 112.7 1,058 100.9 11.8
Spencer Dinwiddie BKN 1,994 110.5 1,118 99.0 11.5
Karl-Anthony Towns MIN 1,187 113.9 1,925 102.4 11.5
Devonte’ Graham CHA 2,211 107.4 939 97.1 10.3
Kawhi Leonard LAC 1,848 116.9 1,628 107.0 9.9
Damian Lillard POR 2,474 115.7 1,093 105.8 9.9

OffRtg = Team’s points scored per 100 possessions w/ player on/off floor
Minimum 1,000 minutes on floor

Shooting is the most important skill in the NBA. And adding an elite shooter at power forward can make a big difference in how well an offense functions.

1. Big spacer

The best part about having a shooter at the four is the space he creates for your pick-and-roll game. In the most basic of actions where he’s spaced on the weak side, his defender is faced with a tough decision. If he tags the roll man, the weak-side shooter is open. And when he’s 6-10, it’s all that more difficult to contest on the close-out …

Gallinari weak-side 3

Gallinari ranked sixth last season with 142 catch-and-shoot 3-pointers. The 41.8% he shot on catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts ranked just 22nd among 81 players with at least 200, but a return of 1.25 points per attempt is one that the defense will want to do something about.

And if the shooter’s defender stays attached, the big has a clean roll to the rim (as part of a double-drag screen in this example) …

Adams roll to the rim

2. Pick-and-pop

Gallinari can also be a solo screener. A pick-and-pop with a dynamic ball-handler and a capable shooter is one of the most difficult actions to defend …

Gallinari pick-and-pop 3

Against a strong close-out, he can put the ball on the floor. His drives are neither quick nor explosive, but Gallinari can finish with control and touch …

Gallinari pick-and-pop drive

… or he can finish those drives at the free throw line. Gallinari averaged only 3.8 drives per game, but he drew fouls on 16.7% of them, the second highest rate among 185 players who averaged at least three drives per contest.

3. Post-up game

His ability to get to the hoop and to the line seems to be diminishing, though. Last season, only 16% of Gallinari’s shots, his lowest rate since his rookie season, came in the restricted area. His free throw rate was also down from 50.7 attempts per 100 shots from the field over his previous four seasons (sixth highest among 161 players with at least 2,000 field goal attempts over that stretch) to 36.5 per 100 last season.

That mark was still well above the league average (26 free throw attempts per 100 shots from the field). And other other way that Gallinari was able to get to the basket and to the line (where he ranked sixth in the league at 89.3%) was by getting to the post. According to Second Spectrum tracking, Gallinari drew fouls on 11.1% of his post-ups, the second highest rate among 30 players who averaged at least three post-ups per game.

League-wide, post-ups have been trending down for a while. But according to Synergy play-type tracking, Gallinari averaged a career-high 2.3 post-up possessions per game last season. And the 1.04 points per possession he scored on post-ups ranked fourth among 30 players who averaged at least two post-up possessions per game.

While he’s most comfortable playing pick-and-pop, he’s willing to take advantage of a switch by dragging a guard or small wing down to the block. In a game just before the All-Star break, he did damage in the post against both Josh Hart ….

Gallinari post-up vs. Hart

… and Jrue Holiday …

Gallinari post-up vs. Holiday

He got two big buckets late in the same game with post-ups against Hart and Lonzo Ball.

4. Alas, there are two ends of the floor

The other end of the floor is an issue. While, with Gallinari on the floor, the Thunder’s offensive numbers were much better, their defensive numbers were much worse. Among those 236 players who played at least 1,000 minutes for a single team, he had the fourth worst on-off DefRtg differential, with OKC allowing 111.2 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and just 102.1 per 100 with him off the floor. That differential was even bigger when you look at minutes with Chris Paul and Steven Adams in the game – 112.6 points allowed per 100 possessions in 873 minutes with Gallinari also on the floor, just 96.8 allowed per 100 in 450 minutes with him off the floor.

Though he’s 6-10, Gallinari is neither a strong rebounder nor very disruptive defensively. He grabbed just 9.0% of available rebounds while he was on the floor, the fifth lowest rate among 62 players 6-10 and taller that averaged at least 15 minutes in 25 games or more. And he averaged just 0.92 steals + blocks per 36 minutes, a rate which ranked 281st among 300 players who played at least 750 total minutes last season.

More critical (but related) is Gallinari’s lack of mobility. At the four, he’s often required to defend in space, which can be problematic. Here he is getting beat off the dribble by Danny Green…

Danny Green beats Gallinari

Earlier in the same game, Paul and Adams defended a pick-and-roll really well, creating a loose ball. But Gallinari was slow to react and Alex Caruso took advantage…

Gallinari slow to loose ball

His lack of foot speed sometimes had him guarding the opposing center when he shared the floor with the quicker Nerlens Noel. But Gallinari is not one to put much effort into rim protection, more likely to get out of the way than earnestly contest a drive …

Jeff Green drive over Gallinari

He committed just 1.5 fouls per 36 minutes, fourth fewest among 300 players who played at least 750 minutes. Gallinari is not the worst defender out there and the Thunder’s best-five lineup was almost as good on defense (where it allowed just 98.0 points per 100 possessions) as it was on offense (where it scored 127.9). But OKC was the first top-10 defense (and just the second better-than-average defense) he’s ever played for.

Good fit, good money?

The offense makes Gallinari a good fit on almost every good team in the league. He’s one of four players – Davis Bertans (also a free agent), Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Harris (another free agent) are the others – who have shot 40% or better on at least 300 3-point attempts in each of the last two seasons.

But this year, there are no good teams with significant cap space. So if Gallinari wants to go somewhere where he can win a playoff series for the first time (he’s played just 25 postseason games over 12 seasons in the league), he’ll likely have to settle for the mid-level exception (starting at $9.3 million per year) or even the tax-payer’s mid-level (starting at $5.7 million).

Gallinari has indicated that competing for a championship is more important than the money. And if his offensive skills are available at a decent price, it’s doubtful that any free agent will have more offers on the table.


John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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