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Film Analysis: Danilo Gallinari

Danilo Gallinari has been a steady scoring presence for the Thunder this season

Oklahoma City Thunder v New York Knicks Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Danilo Gallinari came to the Thunder on the back of a strong season with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Gallinari was a primary scoring option for the Clippers, and his importance grew after the Tobias Harris trade. His strong play was a big reason in the Clippers over-achieving and making the playoffs as an eighth seed.

It was expected that Gallinari would assume a similar sort of role on the Thunder at the start of the season. Oklahoma City does not have a defined team hierarchy where an elite player gets the majority of shots. The committee runs the offense; the game flows to the hot hand.

It is a role that Danilo Gallinari is comfortable with; Gallo is free to score the ball, but he is not overburdened by responsibility. The Thunder have other scoring options which can share the offensive load.

On a basic level, Gallinari has provided efficient scoring for the Thunder. Danilo Gallinari has been a three-level scorer who can be relied upon to provide around 19 points per game. That steady hand is invaluable to Oklahoma City; consistency is key to winning on a nightly basis.

Danilo Gallinari’s versatility on offense has allowed the Thunder’s motion offense to work effectively. Gallinari is a skilled ball-handler who can run hand-offs and screen actions with ease. Gallinari’s ability to find a pass means that the defense has to respect his dribble.

Defenses cannot treat Gallinari as a catch and shoot threat as he is happy to put the ball on the floor and work inside. It is a layer of Gallo’s game that the defense has to think about when guarding Gallinari.

Gallinari’s numbers do not differ hugely to previous seasons, but there are compelling data points that stand out. In the current season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Danilo Gallinari is taking 7.3 threes per game. This is the highest number of attempts per game for his entire career.

Gallinari’s shot diet has changed because he is taking more shots from outside. There have been incremental decreases in the number of shot attempts from the mid-range area of the floor. Gallinari used to settle for long twos; he now makes that extra step backward into a three-point attempt.

Gallinari presents an enormous threat from deep to a defense. Gallinari shoots 40.9% from outside on 7.3 attempts per game; there are very few players who can knock down a high volume of looks from deep efficiently. There are even fewer players who can also put the ball on the floor and make a play.

Gallinari uses the attention he commands behind the arc into being an outside-in threat. It is an inverse of the traditional inside-out philosophy in which a post player creates shots for perimeter-based teammates.

Gallinari leverages his scoring from outside into shot creation inside the arc. Defenses will bite on pump fakes as they do not want Gallinari to get looks off from deep. As soon as the defender leaves their feet, Gallinari is free to use the dribble to good effect.

Numbers rarely tell all of the stories. Some statistics can be manipulated and misused to back up assertions that do not make sense. However, there are a few ‘catch-all’ statistics that are useful.

Gallinari’s exact shooting percentage of 61.1% indicates that Gallinari has been a highly efficient scorer, especially when his volume is considered. There are very few players in the league who are above 60% TS while having over 22% Usage Rate. Anthony Davis and James Harden are two such players who occupy this space alongside Danilo Gallinari.

Gallinari has also made significant contributions to winning for the Thunder. Gallinari has posted a total of 5.7 W/S across the entire season. It is a strong return for Gallo and corroborates the eye test; Gallinari makes winning plays for OKC.

The overall effect of Gallinari’s play can be seen in his net rating. Gallinari’s net score stands at +5.1 per game. This statistic is not perfect, the performance of teammates can influence it, but it is a good ballpark number. It is a number that identifies the point differential that a player is responsible for on the court.

Gallinari comes across the timeline and matches up with James Harden. Contrary to popular belief, Harden is a solid defender in man to man situations. His size and build mean that Harden can get a stop on defense if he applies himself. However, Harden’s awareness is pretty bad.

Harden loses his man when they move off-ball, and he rarely recognizes screens. The result of Harden’s lack of awareness is that he runs into the screen reasonably frequently. Harden is not good at staying attached to his man.

Coach Donovan chooses to run an unusual set for the Thunder in this example. Billy calls for a 4/5 pistol set, an action that has not been used that much for Oklahoma City. The work involves two players; Gallinari is the ball-handler, and Muscala is the screener.

The Thunder’s variation of this set involves Muscala setting the drag screen before fading out to the 3-point line. It is a good play designed by Donovan, and it forces Capela to decide between stepping out to cover Muscala or dropping back to protect the rim.

Muscala sets a good screen on Harden and gets his body into the Rockets’ guard. That brief moment of separation allows Gallinari to turn the corner and accelerate past Harden. It becomes difficult for Harden to contest Gallinari as he is chasing the play; Harden cannot control the pace of the possession.

Capela chooses to sag off Mike Muscala and protect the rim. Capela is a springy, lengthy defender who is adept at using his length to contest shots around the edge. Gallinari going to the side allows Capela to recover and stop the possession.

Although Gallinari scores on this possession, it might have been a good idea to kick the ball out to Mike. Muscala is open behind the arc, and he is a proficient shooter from deep. Muscala has shot 41.7% on open 3-point looks, a highly efficient mark.

Gallinari decides to go all the way to the rim and beat the defense. Gallinari is shrewd on offense in this action; he elevates for the layup before Capela expects. Gallinari is unable to catch Capela off guard by going into the shot quickly.

Gallo uses the element of surprise expertly and kisses the ball off the top of the glass. The choice of finish is excellent, Gallinari puts the ball in a place that Capela cannot contest. Clint Capela has long arms, but it is impossible to deflect the ball when it is at the top of the backboard.

Danilo Gallinari is the lead ball-handler on this possession, and Gallinari chooses to run an isolation play against the Rockets. Gallinari opts to beat the Rockets’ defense by himself instead of shifting the ball around the court.

PJ Tucker matches up with Gallinari on the perimeter, which is a difficult match-up for the Italian forward. Tucker is powerfully built and smart on defense, and he does not get drawn into making mistakes.

The combination of defensive versatility, intelligence, and physical build means that Tucker is an elite player on defense. Tucker is comfortable playing all positions on defense and will get stops for the Rockets. PJ has become the linchpin of the Rockets’ defense this season and a driving force behind the team’s success.

On this possession, Tucker recognizes that there is a swathe of open space behind him. The Rockets do not have a player anchoring the defense at the rim, which means that there is space for Gallinari to drive into. Tucker does not want to give Gallinari an open lane.

PJ adjusts his defensive stance so that it forces Gallinari towards the corner where he can be trapped. Tucker’s aim in this possession is to waste time off the shot clock and force a mistake from Gallinari.

Gallinari rejects the defense and uses the crossover to open up a square of space. The crossover is precise and allows Gallinari to build momentum as he gets past Tucker into the middle of the floor.

I have watched a decent amount of film regarding Gallo, and the simplicity of his play stands out. It is rare to see Gallinari use flashy moves, Gallinari favors simple movements done well. Gallinari’s crossover is not impressive to watch, but it works incredibly well.

Gallinari can beat his man, but he pays no attention to the help defender. Eric Gordon rotates from the corner to the rim; Gordon comes over to double Gallinari. Gordon’s aggressive help defense leaves Luguentz Dort open in the corner.

Gordon becomes another obstacle for Gallinari to navigate at the rim. Gallinari slows down as Gordon crowds the space near the edge. The deceleration allows PJ Tucker to recover on defense. The presence of two Rockets’ players near the rim makes a look at the side difficult.

The lack of space inside means that Gallinari cannot time his layup correctly. The release is too late, and the ball hits the bottom of the rim. Gallinari fails on the layup attempt.

I believe that Gallinari could have done much better on this possession. His drive attracted attention from the defense, which creates scoring opportunities for other Thunder players. The defense collapses, and Gallo is free to kick the ball out to a perimeter-based player.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is wide open on the perimeter, and no player can contest him effectively. Gallinari making the pass to SGA would mean an uncontested deep shot for Shai, uncontested threes are always a good look.

I would like to see Gallinari working on this aspect of his play. A refinement of Gallinari’s decision-making would make him an even better player. It might also lead to his assist numbers trending upwards.

For all of Gallinari’s strengths, athleticism is a weakness in his game. Gallinari is a marginal athlete who is not particularly mobile. You will never see Gallinari throwing down monster dunks and attacking the rim with abandon; he does not have the physical attributes to play this way. However, Gallinari can be a sneaky dunker at times.

Watching Gallinari dunk is always exciting as it does not look like he has enough explosive energy in his legs to finish hard at the rim. Gallinari’s drives do not have that launching pad moment, which is common among high flyers. Gallinari relies on finding that little pocket of momentum to get the dunk down

As Gallinari runs in transition, he matches up with JaVale McGee. McGee is not a mobile perimeter player, JaVale is more comfortable anchoring a defense at the rim. It is a mismatch for Gallo to exploit.

Gallinari uses the crossover to gather momentum and beat the defense. JaVale McGee has no hope of keeping up with Gallinari; Danilo is simply too fast for the Lakers’ big man to chase. McGee attempts to cheat the drive and meet Gallinari at the rim.

It is a wrong decision by McGee as he walks into a hard screen by Steven Adams. Adams’ display is brutal and excellent at the same time. McGee comes to a complete stop as a result of the screen. McGee’s head snaps back as he feels the screen set by the ‘Big Kiwi.’

The final few steps of the drive provide the reasoning to Gallinari’s dunking ability. Gallinari plants his lower body hard onto the floor, and it is almost as if Gallinari is using the hardwood as a springboard. The hard plant and gather step provide just enough thrust to get above the rim for the dunk.

On this possession, Gallinari has to create offense during a late shot-clock situation. There are only eight seconds left on the clock for Gallinari to generate a shot for himself. There is not enough to find a pass to a teammate.

Clint Capela is not an easy player to beat. Capela is different from a lot of bigs in the league; Capela is light on his feet and moves well on the perimeter. Capela is capable when it comes to sticking with smaller players, and his versatility means that switches are no trouble.

Gallinari goes to work as he breaks down the defense. Gallinari uses the size up dribble to create forward momentum and hesitancy in the mind of the defense. Capela expects Gallinari to settle for the long bomb; flashing the possibility of a drive inside adjusts the defender’s thinking.

The size up also allows Gallinari to attack the body with his second step. Gallinari steps past the arc into the mid-range area. The action gets into Capela’s body, and the Rockets’ big man buys the misdirect. Clint drops back a level to cover the possibility of the drive. There is now space for Gallinari to use the step-back jumper.

The step back is a hard shot to master; it is difficult to go back without traveling. The attacking player must hop backward in one fluid motion to avoid travel being called by the referees.

Gallinari gets the footwork correct on this possession. Gallinari uses the lead leg to generate enough momentum to hop backward. Gallo pushes off the lead leg expertly, and he can find the pocket of space needed to get a good shot off.

From that point onwards, it is elementary for Gallinari. Gallinari’s shooting is smooth and precise, and it is a textbook form. The textbook form leads to a bucket for the Thunder in a tough situation.

There is a common misconception about Gallinari’s game, and people like to believe that Gallinari does not want contact. This assertion is not valid, Gallinari plays physically when he needs to. Gallo shows strength on this possession as he backs down the defense to get a quality look.

At the start of the play, Gallinari is isolated from Harden. There are no help defenders who can rotate over and help Harden. Clint Capela is occupied defending SGA; Capela cannot leave his assignment on defense. Every other Rocket is located on the weak-side of the floor.

Harden is a stocky player, but there is nothing he can do when Gallinari starts to back him down. Danilo is too strong and sturdy for Harden to stop. James is powerless as Gallinari works his way into the painted area.

Gallinari recognizes that he cannot back Harden all the way down to the rim. PJ Tucker is defending the weak-side corner, but Tucker can make a smooth rim rotation. Gallinari going to the bucket for a post up will add another Rocket into the mix. It is an unnecessary risk to take.

Gallo chooses to use the turnaround fadeaway jumper as his tool of choice. Gallinari is very comfortable with this shot, and he commonly uses this shot type when he is sixteen feet away from the rim. In this example, the turnaround is closer to the rim.

It is a shot that requires precise movement in order to drop through the net. It is very easy to over-rotate during the turnaround and exposes the ball to the defense. The attacker has to be cognizant of this issue during the play; over-rotation could lead to turnovers.

Gallinari meanders into the turnaround, and he does not snap around quickly. It is a slow turn that gives Gallo plenty of time to get the shot trajectory perfect. The decision to play slowly pay dividends in this example, Gallinari can knock down the look cleanly.

It is easy to see that Gallinari trusts and understands his shooting form completely. Gallinari controls the pace and thrust of the shot perfectly; Gallo is not trying to force the ball down, Gallinari is content to let his technical skills speak for themselves.

Gallinari’s movement off the ball is impressive, and I liked this possession, where he uses a screenplay to find himself behind the arc. Gallinari screens Kendrick Nunn, which frees SGA from the corner. Gilgeous-Alexander was trapped in the corner, but the screen allows him to move freely.

The play drawn up by Coach Donovan is exciting as it is different from a standard ball screen set. In most examples, the guard calls the screen over and uses the big man to create space. This variation of the screen action has a lot of similarities with a hand-off play.

Gallinari starts the possession with the ball and drifts over to the wing where Gilgeous-Alexander is located. Danilo passes the ball to Shai before screening Nunn out of the play. It is a complex action, but it works well as it places Bam Adebayo in a tight spot on defense.

Adebayo has to decide between following Gallinari out to the arc or staying in the interior to cover SGA. It is not an easy decision to make for the defense; both Thunder players are highly efficient scorers who can create a bucket. Adebayo picks his poison and sticks with Gilgeous-Alexander.

Gallinari shows a lot of intelligence in this possession. Gallo interprets the floor effectively to find himself space to score an open look. The interpretation of space comes from Gallinari reading the play and making the right decision of this information.

Danilo recognizes that a cut to the rim is a poor option. There are too many Heat defenders located in that area of the floor, and it would be difficult for Shai to thread a pass through the bodies. Gallinari changes tack and drops to the corner three.

The corner three is an unstoppable look in this action. Gallinari has time and space to knock down the look. Gallo does not need to rush the shot. Adebayo is too far away to contest the shot effectively; the only defense that Adebayo can muster is a late rush at Gallo.

Gallinari feasts on open threes, he shoots 44.1% on wide-open looks from deep. It is the option that opens up the rest of Gallinari’s offense. Threes are Gallo’s bread and butter.

Gallinari’s value as a basketball comes from his scoring. Danilo Gallinari is a walking bucket who can score from all three levels consistently and efficiently. Few players in the league can match that description.

Scoring is not the sole source of Gallinari’s value. Danilo is a good passer who finds teammates in opportunities where they can score the ball. Gallinari is not a primary play-maker; I would not want to run an offense with Gallo as the lead ball-handler. However, Gallinari is proficient in running pick and rolls.

Doc Rivers made use of Gallinari’s passing a decent amount last season. Coach Rivers first started using the 4/5 pick and roll action with Blake Griffin as the ball-handler. It was an innovation by necessity, Griffin was the best passer on the team, and DeAndre Jordan was a devastating lob threat.

When Griffin was traded, Doc started running these plays through Gallinari. It was a smart decision by Doc, Gallinari was a potent scoring threat in the pick and roll which opened up opportunities for every other Clipper on the court.

On this possession, Gallinari gathers the ball in transition and advances the ball up the court. Gallinari can attack the defense by himself, but he makes the wise decision to swing the ball to Dennis Schroder. Schroder’s movement down the left-hand side of the court gives Gallo an easy outlet pass.

Gallinari’s placement of the pass is exceptional. Gallinari does not throw directly to Schroder. He puts the ball into the deep corner and allows Dennis to run onto the crossing. The pass stretches the defense. It is harder for Robinson to sprint out to the edge than it would be to cover the break.

The weight of the pass means the ball lands perfectly in Dennis Schroder’s hands. Gallinari uses the bounce pass to scrub speed off the ball, which makes the catch easy for Schroder. The highest compliment which I can pay to this cross-court pass is that Gallinari makes a delicate dish look easy.

The quality of the pass gives Schroder time to knock down the uncontested three. Schroder does not have to rush because there is no pressure placed upon him by the defense.

It is the ideal situation for any basketball player.

Gallinari shows his ability to pass out of the post in this possession. Gallinari is an adept post player who has a variety of tools at his disposal. Gallinari is very good at fading away on jumpers out of the post. Gallo can also back players down and score down low. The last aspect of his post-game would be his passing.

The Thunder settles down into their offense on this possession while the Lakers’ defense is scrambled. The defense is not set up; the players on the floor are trying to establish their match-ups. The scramble means that Gallinari is lost in the shuffle.

Gallinari’s baseline cut goes completely untracked by the Lakers’ defense. Gallo moves freely without impediment from a defender. Kentavious Caldwell Pope spots Gallinari, but he expects a help defender to pick up Gallo. KCP does not realize there are no Lakers in that zone of the floor.

The lack of defense means that Gallinari is free to stand near the rim and snag an offensive rebound. Gallinari collects the board quickly and starts another possession.

Gallinari drops into the post up position with KCP on his back. Gallo can power through Caldwell Pope for the finish, but he notices Chris Paul slicing through the Lakers’ defense. Paul goes unnoticed as he carves through the defense towards the rim.

Gallinari decides to dish the ball to Paul for the easy layup. The sense of timing on this pass is perfect; Gallo waits for Avery Bradley to move rightwards before dropping the ball to Paul. It is a smart decision, playing the pass a moment earlier would allow Avery Bradley an opportunity to deflect the ball.

Danilo Gallinari is an average defender, he is comfortable defending players his size, but he struggles against smaller players. Gallinari lacks lateral quickness, which makes securing the perimeter against faster players almost impossible. Teams have forced the guard mismatch and roasted Gallinari off the switch.

Gallinari’s inability to guard smaller players does not mean that he is a bad defensive player. I would argue that Gallo finds ways to be active on that end of the floor without having outstanding athleticism. Gallinari is excellent at understanding a play and picking off passes.

In this play, the Bucks are shifting the ball quickly as they run in transition. Milwaukee is eager to attack the Thunder’s scrambled defense and get an easy bucket. That bucket would cut the Thunder’s lead down to just one possession. Bledsoe snatches the ball and looks for the pass to Giannis.

Gallinari is engaged in defense and recognizes that the pass is too strong. Giannis cannot step into the throw and start orchestrating a transition score. Instead, Giannis has to chase the ball to keep possession of the Bucks. Gallinari uses this observation to good effect; he steps forward and swipes the ball away from Giannis.

The deflection creates a turnover and easy scoring opportunity for the Thunder. Gallinari’s dribble draws defensive attention, and Gallinari can swing the ball to Hamidou Diallo. Diallo receives the ball and dunks hard to finish the break.

Gallinari has been an essential member of the Thunder this season. His versatility as a basketball player has allowed Coach Donovan’s offense to work to its fullest capability. However, I do feel like Gallinari can improve as a passer.

Gallinari is good at passing the ball, but he could work on identifying occasions where it makes sense to give up the shot. Gallinari could be a devastating player in the pick and roll if he learns when to kick out and when to attack the rim.

Despite the little areas of improvement, Gallinari has been such a good player for OKC this season. He deserves a lot of credit for the team’s over-achievement.