Italian stretch four Danilo Gallinari started his NBA career in New York, and the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent should return again to help the struggling Knicks.
A lot of things went wrong this season. The veterans brought in largely did not mix with those coveted franchise cornerstones for whom the team has such high hopes. The poor match often translated to gridlock spacing and low scoring efforts.
One thing that did work was Marcus Morris. The 11th-hour signing ended up being the best of the bunch, and the reason is fairly simple—he hit a lot of three-pointers, 116 to be exact. Morris was on a league-leading pace in three-point shooting at one point in the season, helping hide the deficiencies of the poorly constructed roster. In the Sprawlball era of the NBA, having floor spacers is essential. As the roster stands, there are not many that fit the bill.
Whether Julius Randle sticks around or not, the team still needs that floor spacer, especially with Mitchell Robinson expected to command a majority of center minutes and Bobby Portis not expected to return. A Morris reunion could be in the cards, but in the event he prefers his new home in Los Angeles, another reunion can satisfy the Knicks’ desperate need for consistent outside shooting—Danilo Gallinari.
Gallinari was a Garden favorite despite playing just 157 games as a Knick. Back then he was still figuring out what type of player he was. The Italian had a beautiful shot, but the rest of his repertoire was under construction. Just before leaving New York, Gallinari was just scratching the surface of his potential, starting to do more than shoot.
He was starting to assert himself, even throwing it down on occasion, in a similar fashion to this.
Danilo Gallinari RISES UP for the reverse slam ? pic.twitter.com/trCGQWzZ85
— ClutchPoints NBA (@ClutchPointsNBA) February 24, 2020
Since leaving the Big Apple, Gallinari has grown into the player Knicks fans hoped he would be when they drafted him. Over the past two seasons he has honed in on his natural position as a stretch four, scoring near 20 points per game and hitting three-pointers at an impressive 40% clip on healthy volume; this season he is shooting 40.9% on 7.3 three-point attempts per game.
Once the Oklahoma City Thunder’s season concludes, Gallinari will be an unrestricted free agent and should be high up New York’s wish list. Beyond his CAA connection, Gallinari checks one major box the team should care about: making R.J. Barrett and Mitchell Robinson’s lives easier.
Everything the team has to do is fully commit to its youth, and for Barrett and Robinson to thrive they need space. You add a 40% three-point shooter into the lineup and suddenly Robinson has room to roll to the rim and Barrett has clearer lanes to get downhill.
Gallinari is also not a liability on defense; in fact, it could be the opposite. He’s not exactly a prolific shot-blocker or a pickpocket artist, but he is smart. Former teammate and a strong defender in his own right, Patrick Beverley, noted how vocal Gallinari is on the court.
Patrick Beverley on Danilo Gallinari's defense: "He's an underrated defensive player. He knows all the schemes, is the loudest on the court, talks the most. He's a real big factor on our defensive end." #ClipperNation pic.twitter.com/jIKjWiK6zr
— Farbod Esnaashari (@Farbod_E) March 16, 2019
To a young group of defenders like Robinson, Barrett, and Frank Ntilikina, Gallinari would be a second coach on the floor. He may not make the plays, but he will have his teammates engaged and let the Robinsons and Ntilikinas of the world do the rest.
Bringing Gallinari in is relatively simple from a financial perspective: the team could go the one-year deal route as they did with Morris, which should cost them around the $20 million mark, probably a little more. But with that financial commitment is a lot of playing time that will come at the expense of Kevin Knox or Randle.
The best chance at landing Gallinari is by offering a major role—a sticky situation with Randle still around. Randle’s resolution could already be in the works, but for now he has to be included into the plans. Gallinari has averaged 30.5 minutes per game the last two seasons, averaging 19.5 points per game over that same span. It would be wishful thinking to expect Gallinari to join a non-contender’s bench, meaning Knox could spend another season in purgatory.
There is one positive for Knox should Gallinari be brought in: he could find a new mentor. Gallinari’s initial stint in New York had some commonalities with Kevin Knox’s first two years. The team didn’t know where to play Gallinari either, playing him at shooting guard initially and like the Knox shooting guard experiment, the results were largely unimpressive.
Knox responded well to the addition of Wayne Ellington, and would learn more relatable information from Gallinari. Rose is still not sure what to make of Knox, so it is not hyperbole to say his third season could carry legitimate stakes in regards to his career in New York.
Another player Gallinari would gel well with, should he play in New York next season, is Chris Paul. Danilo Gallinari has called Paul one of his favorite teammates. And then there is the irony of Gallinari finally teaming up with Carmelo Anthony.
There is not much to hate about a Gallinari reunion, clearly. He is as solid a player that fits a glaring need for the team. Whether he comes back or not, New York will always have the affection of the Garden faithful. But boy would it be easier if he was wearing the New York orange and blue.