After progressing through one of the best six-month hiatus in recent NBA history, Boston Celtics Sure they have a championship corps. Still, work remains to be done to overcome the hump and bring home the Larry O’Brien Trophy once again. Much of that work falls into two areas: internally through developing and improving your best players, and small tweaks around the core that add different weapons to the mix.
Brad Stevens, Celtics President of Basketball Operations, worked to address the latter with a few tricks around the margins that add depth and new pieces to the Celtics play. One of the more consequential additions is veteran forward Danilo Gallinari, a sweet-shooting Italian with a track record of NBA success and win-now influence as an aging bench player.
Last season, Gallinari shot 47.1% on corner 3-pointers, an incredibly high number. Yes, the main value of onboarding a veteran like him is the consistency of his 3-point shooting, a key feature around many of Boston’s Star Wings. Adam Taylor of Celticsblog Already wrote a critical review of its value as a spot-up threat.
But what undermines Gallinari—both in terms of his fit with this team and his overall reputation league-wide—is his role as an offensive producer, even at his age. According to Synergy Sports play type data, 17% of Gallinari’s offense last season came from post-ups. Adding another wing that is able to score here is crucial, and Gallinari is certainly capable of taking out jumpers in the mid-post area.
Standing at 6’10”, he prefers to use his size advantage on the switch against short pawns or guards. Gallo knows how to play and is as cunning as a veteran, forcing the switch. Slipping the screen with a ball handler for Trae Young, when he was on screen for Trae Young, he was adept at putting a point guard on the way he screens and positioning himself to force the switch sees.
Gallo will then take the younger one in position and thrive on this Dirk Nowitzki-esque one-legged fadeaway that is literally impossible to stop. In his introductory press conference, he mentioned Larry Bird growing up. You can see why.
An underestimated part of Gallo’s game has always been his passing. Against a switching defense or a smaller player, Gallinari can be the less offensive center. He scored 1.2 points per possession (ppp) for teammates while posting. If he’s making enough jumpers or exploiting the mismatch to his advantage, he can make perfect reads to engage another Celtics teammate to lick an open shooter or cutter.
The way in which Gallinari may have been more of a manufacturing center on Boston’s second unit is understood in a number of ways. He found value in Atlanta when surrounded by shooters and playing with a short guard. The Celtics have very few minor players on their roster, although Gallo’s ability to force a switch and then read the post could pair well with Peyton Pritchard off the bench. It also gives the Celtics another option to build into a supersized lineup when playing with the main group and keep opponents from hiding their youngest man on a so-called shooting threat.
In a matter of minutes, when Gallinari plays against guys like Jason Tatum or Jaylen Brown, his pick-and-pop skills can come in handy. Last season, Gallinari was an exceptional 11-24 (45.8%) on no-dribble jumps out of pick-and-pop. His reputation as a deadeye shooter doesn’t just come from standing around the 3-point line and waiting for the kick-out… he’s actually functional in ways that open up the playbook.
Middle pick-and-pop against sagging bigs is an NBA staple, and Gallinari found success here when he would play 5. Because the Celtics have other biggies like Al Horford (37.8 percent at corner 3-pointers) and Grant Williams. 46.8% that could place the floor at places other than the top of the key, with head coach Ime Udoka tinkering with the places his men play on the floor, without changing the lineup too much.
Those lineup choices are clear for Udoka with the current four-man frontcourt rotation of Grant, Al, Gallo and Robert Williams. Keep Gallo in line with Timlord and this defensive rim will provide protection while he is slow on 4 and has more distance around Williams rolling on the rim. Gallo and Al can be interchangeable offensive pieces, there’s a good deal of creation between them and both shoot it well. Grant and Gallo are interchangeable, allowing Gallo to play 5 where his pick-and-pop becomes even more lethal.
As players age they have a tendency to defend the lineup, relying on their strength and quickness to become fleeting. We have seen such a change in Gallinari. According to Basketball ReferenceHe played 29% of his minutes at 5 in Atlanta, something he had never done more than 2% in a season before joining the Hawks.
The advanced metrics for Gallinari’s time in Atlanta were quite positive despite the change and the punchy defense he brought in 5. What Boston brings to the table for their help are two experienced defenders with different but positive influences in Horford and Robert Williams. We look forward to seeing Gallinari play with either of them.
Adding an experienced shooter was paramount for the Celtics, and Gallinari remains one of the most underrated players in the league, despite his age and dwindling athleticism. Shot-making around the stars has always been valued, and Gallinari knows how to deliver it in any type of role. But he’s so much more than just a shooter, and we’re really excited to see how he aggressively affects Boston’s other unit in those areas.