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The Italian Job

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On Saturday August 4th Danilo Gallinari played his first quasi-meaningful minutes of basketball in a long time during the NBA Africa Game. While not the highest level of competition the NBA Africa Game gave Clippers fans a glimpse into what Gallo can accomplish when fully healthy. He put up 23 points on 9/10 shooting going 3/3 from beyond the arc. Gallinari’s shot looked as smooth as ever and he was able to find teammates with some crafty passing, the Italian looked confident on the dribble and did just enough to get this writer full of (probably too much) hope that he’ll build on this confidence-boosting performance and carry it to training camp and into the regular season. With the Clippers in the middle of a “soft rebuild” one of the most crucial factors to them making the playoffs is the health of Gallinari.

When he is able to step on the court Gallinari can stretch opposing defenses thin with his combination of size and shooting, something we didn’t get to see a lot of last year as he only could play 21 games. With reports that Gallinari came into the season out of shape one can attribute his injury riddled season to the fact that he wasn’t even starting the season fully healthy. Although competition-wise Saturday wasn’t too much of a challenge, it was encouraging to see Gallinari looking svelte and seemingly on track to come into next season fully ready to compete.

clips.nation gallo

Photo: Clips Nation 

If Gallo can stay on the floor this season fans will finally get to see how he and Tobias Harris coexist. Last year the duo only managed 9 games together, a sample size much too small to gather any hard-hitting info from. Big-picture wise Harris and Gallo play similar games: both are oversized 3’s, both can stretch the floor with shooting, and both need work on their defense and playmaking abilities. If these two can learn to set screens for each other their size will create problems for opposing defenses going against such a big pick and roll situation. Both of these players could put up 20 PPG but it will take some time and the willingness to learn each other’s tendencies within the revamped Clippers offense.

While Gallinari’s scoring has never been an issue within his game, his playmaking and defense leaves much to be desired. Gallo is by no means a poor passer, he can facilitate when he wants to, it would just be great to see that desire spring up more often next season. The new additions to the team will hopefully jump-start Gallo’s passing, and more time together with Harris should give him a partner in the pick and roll to dish to. With a potential move to the 4 spot Gallo’s defensive short-comings are better masked as opposed to him playing quicker number 3’s, his positioning has always been fairly solid but as time goes on (and injuries pile up) his athleticism is deteriorating. When on the floor together Gallo and Harris will be able to switch defensively to cover up each other’s shortcomings, but against elite teams with top-tier players at both the 3 and 4 spot the Clippers will most likely be doomed to simply “hope for the best” on each defensive possession.

Realistically if Gallinari can avoid any serious injury (like breaking one’s hand after punching someone in the face), improve his overall defense and pick and roll offense, while staying on the court for more than 50 games the Clippers have a legitimate shot at sneaking into the playoffs this year. We all know he can shoot the lights out when he gets hot, but it will be his health and defense that dictates what kind of season Gallo will have. Of course, if the Clippers do make the playoffs they lose their first round pick to the Celtics…but that’s another subject for another blog…


Featured Image Photo: The Daily Snark

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