Ahead of the 2021-22 season, Peachtree Hoops is breaking down each player in regards to what they may bring to the table. Today, we view veteran forward Danilo Gallinari.
Danilo Gallinari’s first campaign with the Atlanta Hawks after signing a significant multi-year contract could be described as a tale of two seasons - a mixed start, likely affected by beginning the season in visibly poor playing shape, followed by a strong finish in which he was a key player in Atlanta’s midseason turnaround.
Indeed, a cursory glance at his season splits support this. In 24 games before the All Star break, Gallinari averaged 11.7 points per game in 22 minutes per game with a 58% true shooting percentage. In 27 games post-All Star break, he averaged 14.7 points per game in 26 minutes per game with a 63% true shooting percentage.
For a player like Gallinari, who hurts his team defensively, the difference between above average efficiency and elite efficiency is significant for his overall impact because his value is derived from his offense.
Viewing Gallinari’s seasonal trends in Estimated Plus-Minus - for my money the best publicly available single season impact metric - we can clearly see his improvement in performance beginning in about early March.
Despite a poor start by his standards, Gallinari still finished his season with a true shooting percentage of 61%, the third season in a row in which he has achieved at least that level of efficiency.
Where Gallinari is especially effective is his pick-and-pop game with Trae Young, which is surely an elite duo by any measure. Per Synergy, Gallinari ranked in the 98th percentile in pick-and-pop shooting possessions. An elite shooter, Gallinari makes for scintillating offensive lineups when deployed alongside Trae Young; per Cleaning the Glass, Gallinari/Young lineups ranked in the 98th percentile in offensive rating.
Not just a shooter, Gallinari’s isolation game and ability to slow the game down at will when faced with a mismatch also add value. He provides a ready outlet for a key bucket in the post, where he’s been known to down jumpers without the net moving.
Overall, when he played well, Gallinari brought a lot to the table off the bench. It’s rare to find 6’10 players with his combination of shooting and one-on-one scoring. It’s rarer still to find such players outside the starting lineup. Although he’s a negative value on defense, as long as the shots are falling at his usual level of efficiency, Gallinari is a valuable player; the kind who can both raise the floor and the ceiling.
Heading into next season, the central question for Gallinari is whether he can avoid another poor start. Should he pick up where he left off, he brings a certain vanity quality to the Hawks - teams really shouldn’t be able to get that level of production off the bench.
In this respect, I think Gallinari is a key variable for the Hawks’ performance next season. Of course, with the return of John Collins as well as the addition of Jalen Johnson in the draft, Atlanta is better positioned to manage his minutes. But if they get his performance over the second half of the season for something close to the full campaign, they would have essentially quality starter play coming off the bench.
That sort of advantage is important for separating from what should be increased competition in the Eastern Conference next season. A simple look at Brooklyn’s reserves should reveal what the Hawks are up against in terms of depth.
From the Atlanta perspective, one hopes the Hawks can get Gallinari’s best out of the gates next season.