The Top 20 Small Forwards In The NBA Today

By: 10.25.12
Danilo Gallinari

Danilo Gallinari (photo. adidas)

8. DANILO GALLINARI, Denver Nuggets
You wouldn’t believe it, but Gallinari’s game is actually somewhat well-rounded. Of course, offensively, he makes shots from everywhere, and draws fouls on over 15 percent of his shots, a MASSIVE number for a perimeter player who’s not considered an elite scorer (that number actually jumps to nearly 20 percent during crunch time). His playmaking also exploded last year in Denver, as his assist rate nearly doubled to 18.53. He can thank George Karl‘s sped-up offense for that; half of Gallinari’s dimes were at the rim, which is where Denver lived all year.

I said “somewhat” well-rounded because while the man can do pretty much everything, he’s not elite in anything, not even shooting. Once touted by Mike D’Antoni as the best shooter the coach had ever seen, I think it’s safe to now put those claims to bed. Gallinari’s never even shot 45 percent from the floor, and his three-point percentage dropped below 33 last year, a career-low. His true shooting percentage was just 56.3, another career-low. For comparison’s sake, Steve Nash‘s number rested at 62.5.

Considering he’s playing in what’s probably the best offense in the league, and within a system that leads to a lot of open shots, this doesn’t totally make sense. But even as he’s struggled to live up to expectations on his jumper, he’s been better than expected off the bounce, where he’s become solid at getting to the rim off of two dribbles from the three-point line.

Gallinari played just 31 minutes a night last year, and now that Karl also has Andre Iguodala, and Wilson Chandler for a full season, Gallo’s overall numbers should take a slight hit.

But compared to Deng, statistically, Gallinari is much more important to his team. We know Deng is a great defender, but in Tom Thibodeau‘s system, his presence has virtually no effect on the team’s overall defensive output. They’re stingy with him or without. But Gallinari… take him out of Denver’s lineup and the Nuggets give up nearly seven points more per 100 possessions. No one will ever consider him a great one-on-one stopper – he’s somewhat slow laterally, and isn’t the most physically imposing player – but he knows how to use his 6-10 frame to contest shots.

Offensively, it’s much of the same. Chicago is actually better without Deng on the court while Gallinari provides Denver with a slight boost. And while most look at Gallo as simply a shooter, he’s actually slightly better off the dribble and creating for others than Deng is. As rebounders, they are virtually identical.

Gallinari doesn’t have the rep of Luol Deng, who’s gotten to that point where he’s been called underrated for so long that he’s now probably overrated. But in the end, he’s a better overall player.

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