After an injury-riddled season, Danilo Gallinari could be the key to unlocking the Los Angeles Clippers potential with a move to the bench.
Danilo Gallinari’s inaugural campaign in Los Angeles did not go as anyone had hoped. Brought in to be an offensive linchpin after the Chris Paul trade, the now maligned, oft-injured forward only managed 21 games this past season. It was the lowest total of his career and extended his streak to eight straight seasons of missing time due to injury, which includes an entire season missed due to a torn ACL.
Gallinari dealt with lingering glute and hand injuries throughout the year, limiting him to career lows in field goal and three-point percentage. Most of that can be attributed to a disastrous beginning of the season, where he shot a horrid 34.5% from the field and 25.8% from three over his first eleven games.
After returning from his glute injury, Gallinari shined, averaging 19.5 points per game on 49% shooting and 40.9% from deep. However, after eight games, Gallinari fractured his hand, and was only seen twice more before the end of the season.
While some fans may want the team to offload Danilo’s team high $21.5 million salary as soon as possible, the Clippers would be wise to suggest a role change to the Italian veteran. While currently projecting as the team’s nominal starting power forward, Gallinari may be able to push the team into serious playoff contention by accepting a bench role.
The move would allow the Clippers to start a more reliable defender in Luc Mbah A Moute, and slide Tobias Harris to power forward, giving the team a more modern starting five. It would also allow the team to more closely manage Gallinari’s minutes in an effort to help alleviate the possibility of future injury. The move would add another versatile “stretch” forward to the second unit, helping the pick-and-roll development of prized first round draft pick Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, not to mention creating more space for the always dangerous Lou Williams.
The Clippers have built a deep roster this off-season in an effort to stay competitive, hoping to create a culture of winning to go along with the cap space the team has smartly hoarded for next season’s free agent class. Gallinari could rebuild a lot of his value with not only the team’s fan base but with other teams around the league if he excels next year. A move to the bench could be the easiest path to a full and productive season, assuaging some of the fears that he is too injury prone to be worth the premium the team is paying to keep him on the roster.