When the season shut down in March, we turned in our 2019-20 season report card knowing that basketball as we knew it was concluding for a long while. That’s how the NBA handled their 2019-20 awards as well–only counting the games played before the pandemic suspension in awards voting. But basketball did come back, and the Thunder’s players earned bonus points over the final stretch.
New Grade: B+
What separates Danilo Gallinari from the other noted long range assassins across the NBA is his 6′10″ frame. Gallinari is a great shooter, but his size allows him to contribute so much more offensively. He is seemingly always able to get his shot off regardless of the defender’s position. He is the ideal pick and pop partner, a player with an innate sense of when to cut to the hoop while also capable of putting the ball on the ground to create when all else fails. When opposing defenses would switch on a Gallinari screen, the Thunder were more than willing to let him exercise his surprisingly smooth back-to-the-basket game on smaller defenders.
Although Gallinari was a vital contributor throughout the regular season, his effectiveness wavered in the playoffs as his touch from deep eluded him. After shooting 43.8 percent from the field and 40.5 percent from three during the regular season, those numbers dropped to 40.5 and 32.4, respectively, in the postseason.
With the Rockets abandoning traditional bigs altogether, Gallinari was presented with an unfavorable defensive matchup, getting the task of guarding quicker perimeter players. Even though Gallinari had a height advantage on essentially all of Houston’s rotation players, Billy Donovan was reluctant to downsize; he played Gallinari at center for only 31 possessions. Flanked by the three point guards and Lu Dort, the Thunder posted a colossal net rating of +32.6 when playing Gallinari at the five in limited minutes against the Rockets.
Gallinari found the perfect role for himself this season in Oklahoma City. However, his contributions are often overlooked when recounting the factors that turned the Thunder into the surprise story of the Western Conference. Far more than just a “shooter”, expect a number of contenders to emerge as potential suitors during Gallinari’s impending free agency.