This off season is shaping up to be incredible for the NBA. The salary cap is set to explode and franchises are already making moves. Early trades by the Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte Hornets (twice!), Los Angeles Clippers, and Portland Trail Blazers have set things into motion before the NBA draft even begins. DeMarcus Cousins, long thought to be the centerpiece for the Sacramento Kings, also is being shopped according to the latest reports by Adrian Wojnarowski.
The New Orleans Pelicans have been quiet on that front so far but a new entrant on the trade block might change things. Late last night Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports reported that Denver Nuggets small forward Danilo Gallinari is available. The Nuggets recently brought in former New Orleans Hornets assistant Michael Malone as their head coach and a number of players, led by Ty Lawson, have been rumored to be available at the right price.
The Nuggets have made injury plagued but offensively talented forward Danilo Gallinari available for trade, a source told Yahoo Sports.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) June 25, 2015
Trying to figure out what the Nuggets might want, considering the amount of roster churn they could undergo in the next few weeks, seems futile. Ryan Anderson would save the Nuggets about $3 Million in salary cap space. Tyreke Evans would save closer to $1 Million. Denver could want New Orleans to take back the salary of J.J. Hickson in addition. Making that work under the salary cap would require that Eric Gordon be the outgoing piece.
Do any of those trades make sense for the Nuggets? No one knows! The Nuggets could be a completely different looking team by July 15th.
Gallinari in New Orleans
Working out the trade will be for Dell Demps and Tim Connelly (Demps' former assistant in NOLA) to discuss. Instead I want to focus on what Gallinari would bring to New Orleans. He would immediately slot as the starting small forward into the lineup, giving the Pelicans an incredibly long starting front court. Both Gallinari and Anthony Davis stand 6'10" (at least in AD's case) while Omer Asik is a solid seven footer. Gallinari is a decent defender who has lost some explosiveness due to knee injury. Check out this piece from Denver Stiffs on Gallinari's defensive impact.
Offensively is where Gallinari would be valuable as a secondary ball handler and floor spacer. Gallinari was potent as a youngster with the New York Knicks, coached by Mike Dantoni. While in New York over 50% of Gallinari's attempts came behind the 3-point line, where he shot an impressive 37.7%. Even more importantly, despite shooting so frequently from deep Gallinari posted a .400 free throw attempt rate. To put that in perspective, Gallinari got to the line more often (per shot attempt) than Anthony Davis did last year. Danilo makes opponents pay too, knocking down 85% of his freebies throughout his NBA career.
After the Nuggets fired head coach Brian Shaw the pace picked back up. Thanks to that, Gallinari really settled in nicely under interim head coach Melvin Hunt. In the last 19 games of the season Gallinari averaged 19.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game while posting a tremendous 45.6/40.0/89.4 shooting line. His shot chart is beautiful.
Check out Gallinari dropping 40 this past March.
Gallinari would not come without risks. He's had multiple knee injuries. His contract is expiring. If he worked out great in New Orleans he would undoubtedly be looking for a pay raise either in the Crescent City or the open market. Again, considering his potential the price might be steep; well beyond just Ryan Anderson or Tyreke Evans to include a potential future first round pick. The Nuggets have held out for firsts to great success when they eventually traded Timofey Mozgov to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Gallinari would fit with what the Pelicans are trying to do in New Orleans. He will be just 27 years old, fitting right in that "young veterans" timeline. Finally there would be a solid answer at small forward after years of wandering and trying to fit round pegs into square holes in the Crescent City. The ideal trade would be Ryan Anderson. Gallinari could start at small forward and log time at power forward beside Anthony Davis in small ball looks.
The price, ultimately, is the biggest hindrance here. What do the Nuggets want for Gallinari? Assets? What kind of player? Additional cap space? Considering their situation it is difficult to tell. They could ultimately just run it back with minimal turnover or tear the whole thing down. Either avenue really seems a possibility at this point.
If the price is right, make the deal Dell.