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Who is Danilo Gallinari?: A Viewer’s Guide

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There’s a new face in town whose style of play is an historically visible as fellow newcomer Chris Paul. What will we see?

NBA: Playoffs-Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Part of the new OKC future is the forever hard-to-label and enigmatic Italian forward Danilo Gallinari.

Why enigmatic? He’s a hard player to tack down. Perhaps the casual NBA fan won’t recognize his name, and even the more serious fans have very few Danilo Gallinari talking points in their back pocket. Why is that?

He occupies a strange space in the NBA, which does not file neatly into our black and white, dualistic mental organization methods. He’s somewhere between solid and All-Star, and on the more concerning end, somewhere between a full-time professional basketball player and a part-time professional basketball player. To add to it all, Gallo moved to PF last year, adjusting his career to somewhere between wing and big.

He’s just there, floating in the middle of it all.

I’ve got great news: out there floating in the middle of it all sits a very, very good basketball player.

In Gallinari’s home country of Italy, there’s an idiom that means to tell the truth without holding anything back. Literally translated, it means to tell the truth without hair on your tongue.

Non avere pell sulla lingua.

To be informed fans of our new Thunder boy, here’s a quick overview—told without any hair on my tongue (thank God).

The Good: efficient scoring and positional playmaking

Gallo can score, plain and simple. He’s your classic bucket-getter. At all 3 levels, Gallinari is an (dare it be said) elite scorer. His method of scoring does not come from some uniqueness, be it athleticism, strength, or a killer move (think Dirk)—it just comes from his ability to get the shots he wants. He is crafty. He is the annoying kid who always finds a way to get the ball in the hoop, no matter who he faces.

Take 10 seconds to name the top 5 three-point shooters last year based on percentage.

Who’s on the list? Curry? Harris? Korver? Redick? Thompson? Other Curry? Durant?

You left off Danilo Gallinari, who shot 44% from 3 last year, fifth best in the league. He did that while shooting over 5 long distance shots a game. That’s serious volume. Here’s some examples:

The ball just goes in. I don’t know what else to tell you.

Thankfully, he’s not just a scorer. Per Cleaning the Glass, Gallinari assisted on 13% of his teams made baskets last year, which puts him in the 87th percentile for his position (as of last year, PF). He receives a bit of a spike, as he’s played on the wing his whole career, which entails a bit more passing than traditional power forwards deal with.

The craftiness that informs and supports his scoring is the same that fuels his playmaking offering. Gallo isn’t, say, Chris Paul, but he is not a ball stopper. That’s enough.

The Bad: turnovers and health

Again, per Cleaning the Glass, Gallinari was in the 91st (91st!!) percentile for turnover percentage at his position.

That’s really bad. That means 8.8% of Gallo’s possessions ended in a turnover. Mostly, they just seem to be passes that are forced. Here’s what I mean:

The silver lining of ill-advised passing is that it’s an easier fix than other types of turnovers, especially those stemming from a poor handle or boneheaded decision making.

Finally, Gallinari has a poor injury history. Only twice has he played more than 70 games in a season.

An abbreviated list health-related absences: sore back, back surgery, sore right forearm, sprained left knee, sprained right ankle, chip fracture in left ankle, sprained left ankle, fractured right thumb, fractured left thumb, sinus infection, torn ACL in left knee, torn meniscus in left knee, bruised right knee, torn meniscus in right knee, shoulder injury, sore right thigh, sprained right ankle, strained groin, right hand fracture, sprained right hand, and a sore left ankle.

Not good. Nottttt good.

But he’s healthy right now, he’s wearing a Thunder uniform, and he can score with the best of them. That’s a win.