Monday Morning Point Guard
He is the spaghetti to their meatballs. The fettuccini to their alfredo. The pepperoni to their pizza.
In other words, Danilo Gallinari, who hails from Italy, is very important to the Denver Nuggets.
The Nuggets have been riddled by an unfortunate amount of injuries this season, losing a variety of essential contributors. None is more devastating than the blow the Nuggets endured on Feb. 6, when Gallinari fell victim to a nasty ankle sprain. Denver lost the game that night to Houston (their fifth loss in six games), and lost a key part of their lineup for an extended period of time.
Since Danilo went down, the Nuggets have been decent to terrible, losing two of their three games since the injury. They did manage to stop the bleeding in their last game, picking up a quality road win at Indiana.
Is this recent skid completely related to the absence of Galo? Not necessarily. The Nuggets lackluster play can be attributed to an assortment of issues. But there is no question the Nuggets are a different team without him.
We can now all see why Gallinari was the prize piece the Nuggets coveted in the Melo trade. He replaced Melo at the small forward position. He replaced Melo as arguably the most talented player in the lineup. And he replaced Melo as the nucleus to the franchise. The Nuggets brass were so sold on him being a cornerstone of the future, they already signed the young Italian to a four-year, 42 million dollar extension. That’s a lot of Euros for this Nugget’s Euro.
Just like Gallinari’s predecessor, Danilo has also taken over as the team’s leading scorer, averaging 17.0 points per game. Any basketball team who loses their leading scorer is going to have some problems.
But the Nuggets aren’t just missing Gallinari’s scoring production. He is valuable in many facets of the game. He brings energy, aggressiveness, and fearlessness. Danilo is consistently looking to push the ball in transition and has no qualms in taking it hard to the rack. He leads the team in free throws attempted per game (5.7) and free throw percentage (89%.) But Galo is also willing to let if fly from a distance if he has a good look. He is second on the team in 3-pointers attempted per game (4.5) and 3-pointers made (1.4).
He is not afraid to shoot even if he is struggling, like when he went 1-10 from the field and 0-4 from 3 against the Grizzlies. But he is also not afraid to carry his team to victory, like when he went 7-10 from the field and 5-5 from 3 the next game against the Clippers.
Gallinari is also a respectable defender, with his lanky frame allowing him to smother opponents. He is second on the team in steals per game (1.2) and sixth in blocks per game (.64).
Gallinari’s timetable for return is still somewhat up in the air. Doctors predicted he would be sidelined at least a month, which puts him out until the March 7th game against Cleveland. And because this season is so compressed and jam packed with games, he will miss more action than in a normal year. If he does indeed come back that date, he will have missed 14 games, or 21% of the regular season. Ay! Yi! Yi!
Let’s hope he returns sooner than later. The Nuggets desperately need him. If they don’t get their Italian forward back as expected - to help right the sinking ship that is the Denver Nuggets - they might be saying Ciao to their playoff hopes.
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