'He’s a quiet assassin': What makes Thunder's Danilo Gallinari a lethal offensive player?
Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari remained rooted to the floor as Mike Muscala loped to him. Muscala jumped and flailed. Gallinari waited, a smile tugging at one corner of his mouth. Dennis Schroder threw a ball arching into Gallinari’s path. Still, he waited.
When Gallinari’s teammates had run out of distraction tactics Sunday, the perennial post-practice 3-point contest winner let his last shot of the day fly. Swish.
“It’s funny,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said the last time his team came to Oklahoma City, “everywhere he goes he just keeps playing, keeps scoring. Then when you read about the teams, you rarely see a Gallinari comment. He gets away with 20 (points) and nobody talks about it. I don’t know how he does it. He’s a quiet assassin.”
The Clippers are no doubt talking about Gallinari’s 19.3 points per game, leading up their game at OKC on Tuesday. Gallinari had arguably the best season of his career with the Clippers last year, and he’s come close to reproducing that efficiency this year. Gallinari, 31, is the Thunder’s leading scorer (tied with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander) and most efficient 3-point shooter (41%).
“I totally agree with what Doc said there,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “I think (Gallinari) is a guy that doesn’t really get a whole lot of deserved publicity. And I think part of that maybe is because of his personality. He’s such an easy-going, laid back, humble guy. And he’s such a team guy.”
Need an example? Look no further than Gallinari’s response this week to a question about how he's averaged more than 19 points and shot over 40% from 3-poiint range for two-straight seasons.
“I think just being consistent, being myself,” he said. “And the fact that I have great teammates and great coaches, it helps a lot.”
Gallinari has been a lethal 3-point shooter over the course of his career, but in 11 seasons — Gallinari has been in the NBA since 2008, but he missed the 2013-14 season with a torn ACL — he has never been named an All-Star.
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Opposing teams, however, don’t take his offensive ability lightly.
“We know what a guy averages going into a game, but he averages that for a reason,” said Thunder guard Chris Paul, who battled Gallinari’s teams for years before the two became teammates. “Because everybody else had the scouting report, too, and you can’t necessarily stop it. So, I think a lot of times the scouting report on Gallo is to not let him get open looks, try to be tough on him in the post. But many people have tried, and not a lot are successful.”
Part of what makes Gallinari so difficult to guard, as Donovan sees it, is Gallinari’s ability to read defenses. On top of that, he has the tools to exploit a mismatch both on the perimeter and in the post. That isn’t always the case for shooting big men.
“He’s a little bit more difficult guy to switch” in pick-and-roll defense, Donovan said, “because you have to account for the fact that if you do switch him, he’s going to roll to the basket, and if he is playing against a guard, where’s your help coming from?”
Rivers and his team know as well as anyone what they have to plan for ahead of a game against Gallinari.
“He can do everything,” Rivers said when asked for his scouting report of Gallinari back in November. “He can pass the ball, but most of all, he draws fouls. He’s a great 3-point shooter. You tell them all that, really. And then tell them good luck, you’ve got to stop him.”
Clippers at Thunder
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City
TV: FS Oklahoma (Cox 37/HD 722, DirecTV 675, U-verse 751/1751)
Radio: WWLS-AM 640 / 98.1 FM